To assess the potential influence of coastal development on habitat quality for estuarine nekton, we characterized body condition and reproduction for common nekton from tidal tributaries classified as undeveloped, industrial, urban or man-made (i.e., mosquito-control ditches). We then evaluated these metrics of nekton performance, along with several abundance-based metrics and community structure from a companion paper (Krebs et al. 2013) to determine which metrics best reflected variation in land-use and in-stream habitat among tributaries. Body condition was not significantly different among undeveloped, industrial, and man-made tidal tributaries for six of nine taxa; however, three of those taxa were in significantly better condition in urban compared to undeveloped tributaries. Palaemonetes shrimp were the only taxon in significantly poorer condition in urban tributaries. For Poecilia latipinna, there was no difference in body condition (length–weight) between undeveloped and urban tributaries, but energetic condition was significantly better in urban tributaries. Reproductive output was reduced for both P. latipinna (i.e., fecundity) and grass shrimp (i.e., very low densities, few ovigerous females) in urban tributaries; however a tradeoff between fecundity and offspring size confounded meaningful interpretation of reproduction among land-use classes for P. latipinna. Reproductive allotment by P. latipinna did not differ significantly among land-use classes. Canonical correspondence analysis differentiated urban and non-urban tributaries based on greater impervious surface, less natural mangrove shoreline, higher frequency of hypoxia and lower, more variable salinities in urban tributaries. These characteristics explained 36 % of the variation in nekton performance, including high densities of poeciliid fishes, greater energetic condition of sailfin mollies, and low densities of several common nekton and economically important taxa from urban tributaries. While variation among tributaries in our study can be largely explained by impervious surface beyond the shorelines of the tributary, variation in nekton metrics among non-urban tributaries was better explained by habitat factors within the tributary and along the shorelines. Our results support the paradigm that urban development in coastal areas has the potential to alter habitat quality in small tidal tributaries as reflected by variation in nekton performance among tributaries from representative land-use classes.
Additional Publication Details
Assessing the link between coastal urbanization and the quality of nekton habitat in mangrove tidal tributaries