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Urbanization impacts on production and recruitment of Fundulus heteroclitus in salt marsh creeks

Paul J. Rudershausen*, Jeffrey A. Buckel

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: It is unclear how urbanization affects secondary biological production in estuaries in the southeastern USA. We estimated production of larval/juvenile Fundulus heteroclitus in salt marsh of North Carolina tidal creeks and tested for factors influencing production. F. heteroclitus were collected with a throw trap in salt marsh of five creeks possessing a range of urbanization intensities. Multiple factor analysis (MFA) was used to reduce dimensionality of habitat and urbanization effects in the creeks and their watersheds. Production was then related to the first two dimensions of the MFA, month, and year. Lastly, we determined the relationship between creek-wide larval/juvenile production and abundance from spring and abundance of adults from autumn of the same year. Production in marsh (g m-2 d-1) varied between years and was negatively related to the MFA dimension that indexed salt marsh; higher rates of production were related to creeks with higher percentages of marsh. An asymptotic relationship was found between abundance of adults and creek-wide production of larvae/juveniles and an even stronger density-dependent relationship was found between abundance of adults and creek-wide larval/juvenile abundance. Results demonstrate (1) the ability of F. heteroclitus to maintain production within salt marsh in creeks with a lesser percentage of marsh as long as this habitat is not removed altogether and (2) a density-dependent link between age-0 production/abundance and subsequent adult recruitment. Given the relationship between production and marsh area, natural resource agencies should consider impacts of development on production when permitting construction in the southeastern USA.