A comparison of eelgrass, sea lettuce macroalgae, and marsh creeks as habitats for epibenthic fishes and decapods

Susan M. Sogard, Kenneth W. Able

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190 Scopus citations


Densities of epibenthic fishes and decapod crustaceans (excluding xanthids and pagurids) were quantified with daytime throw trap sampling in shallow water habitats of New Jersey estuaries. We compared eelgrass (Zostera marina), sea lettuce macroalgae (Ulva lactuca), unvegetated sand/mud substrates adjacent to these vegetation types, and saltmarsh creeks. The highest total density of fishes occurred in marsh creeks, due primarily to high abundances of Menidia menidia. The highest total decapod density was also in a marsh creek, but only slightly surpassed the density in Zostera. Results of apriori comparisons tests for individual species demonstrated that vegetation (either Zostera or Ulva) was superior in quality (based on fish and decapod densities) to adjacent unvegetated substrates. Sites with Zostera as the dominant vegetation had higher densities of most fish species than sites with Ulva as the dominant vegetation, but only one decapod, Hippolyte pleuracanthus, was more abundant at eelgrass sites. Ulva lactuca, therefore, was an important habitat in areas lacking Zostera marina; for the decapods the two vegetation types were comparable in habitat quality, but for fishes Ulva did not provide an equivalent substitute for Zostera. Marsh creeks supported very high densities, but only for a few species that were also common in other habitats. Comparison of recruitment patterns suggested many species do not begin exploiting these estuarine habitats until relatively late in the summer, perhaps as result of peak spawning in mid-summer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-519
Number of pages19
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


  • Habitat quality
  • New Jersey
  • Ulva lactuca
  • Zostera marina
  • estuaries
  • recruitment


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