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NCCOS-supported Scientists Untangle Food Web, Habitat Value

Being able to numerically determine how much food is produced by different habitats in relation to each other helps habitat restoration and conservation managers put a price on the value of ecological services provided by the habitats. Scientists at the University of North Carolina supported by the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise Research Program developed data on habitat food web support, one of the first methodologically comparable studies available across multiple estuarine habitats.

Habitats with hard emergent or biogenic structure were found to exhibit higher secondary production than habitats lacking structure. Thus, oyster reefs topped in food production followed by salt marsh > sea grass > intertidal flat and subtidal flat.

This study shows that estuarine rehabilitation should include structural habitat elements that will contribute to production at higher trophic levels. Numerically comparing habitat function aids managers in communicating to the public as well as evaluating habitat importance in determining restoration dollars.

Read the research abstract in Marine Ecology Progress Series “Evaluating Estuarine Habitats
Using Secondary Production as a Proxy for Food Web Support.”

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