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17 October 2018 Linking Hydrologic Connectivity in Salt Marsh Ponds to Fish Assemblages across a Heterogenous Coastal Habitat
Ashley N. Ragan, Jeffrey R. Wozniak
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Abstract

Ragan, A.N. and Wozniak, J.R., 2019. Linking hydrologic connectivity in salt marsh ponds to fish assemblages across a heterogenous coastal habitat. Journal of Coastal Research, 35(3), 545–558. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

In estuarine systems, inundation regime plays a vital role in shaping the physical and chemical characteristics of salt marsh ponds. Along the Texas Gulf Coast, salt marsh ponds are scattered across the coastal marsh landscape, with each pond possessing a varying degree of hydrological connectivity to adjacent estuarine waters. The timing, frequency, and magnitude of connection events can directly influence both the abiotic and biotic components of the ponds. To determine how the degree of hydrological connectivity impacts these systems, discriminant function analysis (DFA) was used to test the ability of environmental variables (e.g., pond size, vegetation, soil type, water column salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc.), fish presence–absence data, and fish relative abundances to predict the level of connectivity of a subset of ponds. In addition, canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) was used to determine whether fish assemblage data (collected via seine and minnow traps) could determine whether pond conditions affect the composition of fish assemblages. Results from the DFA for environmental parameters showed that the model classified ponds correctly to their a priori connectivity classifications; however, no more accurately than random chance. Fish presence–absence data were the least accurate for predicting degree of connectivity, but the relative abundances of those species proved to be an accurate method for pond connectivity classification. Many efforts to understand how an altered hydroperiod impacts marsh complexes along the Texas Gulf Coast have focused on tidal creeks and the vegetated portions of open marshes rather than salt marsh ponds, which can be key habitats for both primary and secondary productivity. This study concentrates on salt marsh ponds to provide a better understanding of how these ecosystems function within the greater marsh landscape.

©Coastal Education and Research Foundation, Inc. 2019
Ashley N. Ragan and Jeffrey R. Wozniak "Linking Hydrologic Connectivity in Salt Marsh Ponds to Fish Assemblages across a Heterogenous Coastal Habitat," Journal of Coastal Research 35(3), 545-558, (17 October 2018). https://doi.org/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-18-00007.1
Received: 15 January 2018; Accepted: 9 June 2018; Published: 17 October 2018
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KEYWORDS
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
coastal ecosystem
fish assemblages
Gulf of Mexico
hydroperiod
physiological tolerances
resident nekton
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