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Research Links Land Use, Shoreline Hardening, and Species Abundance

Recent NCCOS research provides solid evidence that reduced aquatic species abundance in the Northeast is linked with increased agricultural land use and hardened shorelines. Results from the study are published in the September issue of Estuaries and Coasts and highlighted in Coastal & Estuarine Science News (CESN).

Map of sample locations and land use: developed land (gray), cropland (orange), forest (dark green), nearshore wetland (light green), and Pasture land (light yellow). See study and Figure 1 for details. (Credit: M. Kornis, USFWS and D. Breitburg, SERC)

The overall research project evaluated 587 sites, 39 sub-estuaries, and 15 fish and crustacean taxa in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland and Delaware coastal bays. This research provided empirical evidence that more agricultural land in a watershed and more hardened coastal shoreline are associated with lower abundances of many important species.

Results of this study provide long-sought-after, solid evidence of linkages between fish and crustacean abundance, watershed land cover, and cumulative shoreline condition. Growing coastal populations may increase shoreline hardening, especially as people seek to protect coastal property from sea level rise. Coordinated management efforts will be necessary to address this threat.

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