Year of Publication

2015

Season of Publication

Fall

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Department

Biology

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly J. Smith

Second Advisor

Dr. Nicole Dix

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Johnson

Department Chair

Dr. Cliff Ross

College Dean

Dr. Barbara Hetrick

Abstract

Oyster reefs are declining worldwide, as well as the economic and ecological value of oysters to their respective systems. Numerous restoration efforts have been undertaken in hopes of re-establishing these shellfish populations. This study evaluated a restoration project within the Guana Tolomato Matanzas estuary in northeast Florida, U.S.A., to investigate community structure as well as seasonal patterns in species abundance and diversity of juvenile fish and benthic macrofauna within restored and unrestored intertidal habitats along the Guana Peninsula. The first objective was to determine whether the artificially created reefs provided similar quantity and diversity of benthic macrofauna as adjacent unrestored habitats. The second objective was to specifically characterize resident and transient fish assemblages associated with the artificial reef and adjacent unrestored habitats. Benthic macrofauna were quantified using plastic settlement trays deployed in triplicate at each site and sampled monthly for a year. Community structure differed by habitat, confirmed through an analysis of similarity. High abundances of Petrolisthes armatus on the natural reef sites largely contributed to dissimilarity in community composition between the natural reef and the restored sites. Fish assemblages were quantified using monthly seine and gill nets set adjacent to restored and unrestored intertidal habitats. Diversity was similar between the restored and unrestored sites, however, there was very little species overlap between the two sites. The dominance of post-larval and juvenile spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), anchovies (Anchoa mitchelli and A. hepsetus) and mullet (Mugil sp.) led to high density and low diversity in seine collections during the winter months. Overall, the gill net survey did not show any patterns in fish abundance associated with particular habitats in the area, however this is the first assessment in this region using gill netting. Constructed oyster reefs created immediate habitat for resident species and enhanced habitat value compared to unstructured mud bottom.

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