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NCCOS-supported Scientists Untangle Food Web, Habitat Value

Published on: 03/01/2012
Research Area(s): Coastal Change

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

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

This studyshows that estuarine rehabilitation should include structural habitat elements that will contributeto production at higher trophic levels. Numerically comparing habitat function aids managers incommunicating to the public as well as evaluating habitat importance in determining restorationdollars.

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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