NCEAS Project 2279

Evaluation of the nursery role of wetlands and seagrasses for better conservation and management

  • Michael W. Beck
  • Kenneth L. Heck

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Graduate Student11th October 1999—30th June 2000Participant List  
Working Group14th—16th December 1999Participant List  
Working Group19th—21st July 2000Participant List  
Graduate Student1st September 2000—30th June 2001Participant List  
Working Group28th—31st October 2000Participant List  
Working Group13th—15th December 2000Participant List  
Working Group18th—20th July 2001Participant List  
Working Group7th—11th January 2002Participant List  
Working Group18th—20th February 2002Participant List  

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Abstract

Wetland (herein, estuarine marsh and mangrove) and seagrass habitats are extraordinarily productive, and are believed to play a nursery role in which juvenile fish and shellfish occur at high densities, avoid predation, grow quickly, and then migrate offshore to appropriate adult habitat. The nursery role of these habitats is a pervasive concept, and it is important in research, conservation, and management. There is, however, growing recognition that the evidence that supports this paradigm is not cohesive and sometimes weak or contradictory. A clear understanding of the importance of seagrass and wetland habitats in the life cycles of marine species is urgently needed, because these habitats are declining rapidly worldwide. In the USA, the recently revised Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires all eight Regional Fishery Management Councils to define, protect, and restore "Essential Fish Habitat". If seagrasses and wetlands are nursery grounds then new measures can and should be directed towards their conservation as Essential Fish Habitat.

Our goal is to form three small working groups to critically evaluate the nursery role concept for seagrass and wetland habitats. We will determine the extent to which the density, survival, and growth of animals are greater in these habitats than elsewhere and examine the characteristics of these habitats that most affect secondary productivity. We will also use bioenergetic simulation models to estimate the contribution of seagrasses and wetlands to offshore secondary production and examine the predicted effects of the continued loss of these habitats. We plan to synthesize and make these results useful not only to scientists but also to NGO's, and state and government agencies to better inform management and conservation of coastal environments.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Presentations Beck, Michael W.; Heck, Kenneth L. 2001. Identification, conservation and management of estuarine and marine invertebrates: A National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Working Group Report. Estuarine Research Foundation.
Journal Article Beck, Michael W.; Heck, Kenneth L.; Able, Kenneth; Childers, Daniel L.; Eggleston, David B.; Gillanders, Bronwyn; Halpern, Benjamin S.; Hays, Cynthia; Hoshino, Kaho; Minello, Thomas; Orth, Robert J.; Sheridan, Pete; Weinstein, Michael. 2001. The identification, conservation, and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. BioScience. Vol: 51. Pages 633-641.
Journal Article Beck, Michael W.; Heck, Kenneth L.; Able, Kenneth; Childers, Daniel L.; Eggleston, David B.; Gillanders, Bronwyn; Halpern, Benjamin S.; Hays, Cynthia; Hoshino, Kaho; Minello, Thomas; Orth, Robert J.; Sheridan, Pete; Weinstein, Michael. 2003. The role of nearshore ecosystems as fish and shellfish nurseries. Issues in Ecology. Vol: 11. Pages 1-12.
Data Set Beck, Michael W.; Heck, Kenneth L. 2006. A review of studies on the nursery role of nearshore habitats. (Online version)
Journal Article Gillanders, Bronwyn; Able, Kenneth; Brown, Jennifer A.; Eggleston, David B.; Sheridan, Pete. 2003. Evidence of connectivity between juvenile and adult habitats for mobile marine fauna: An important component of nurseries. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. Vol: 247. Pages 281-295.
Journal Article Heck, Kenneth L.; Hays, G.; Orth, Robert J. 2003. Critical evaluation of the nursery role hypothesis for seagrass meadows. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. Vol: 253. Pages 123-136.
Journal Article Minello, Thomas; Able, Kenneth; Weinstein, Michael; Hays, Cynthia. 2003. Salt marshes as nurseries for nekton: Testing hypotheses on density, growth and survival through meta-analysis. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. Vol: 246. Pages 39-59.
Journal Article Sheridan, Pete; Hays, Cynthia. 2003. Are mangroves nursery habitat for transient fishes and decapods?. Wetlands. Vol: 23(2). Pages 449-458. (Abstract)