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Relative value of deep subtidal oyster reefs to other estuarine habitat types using a novel sampling method.

ABSTRACT Subtidal eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin) cover large expanses of many Gulf of Mexico estuaries; however, few researchers have attempted to quantify the value of deep, open-water, subtidal reefs as habitat for fishes and crustaceans as a result of gear limitations. We developed quantitative sampling gear for live oyster reefs by slightly modifying an epibenthic sled. Gear comparison trials showed similar effectiveness among marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation, and nonvegetated bottom for both epibenthic sled types. We then quantified the density and community assemblage of nekton and benthic crustaceans on deep subtidal oyster reefs in Lavaca Bay, TX, and compared it with densities found in nearby marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation, and nonvegetated bottom habitats. We found significantly fewer nektonic and benthic crustaceans on nonvegetated bottom and oyster reefs than in marsh edge and submerged aquatic vegetation over all seasons and regions, and community analysis revealed similar differences among habitat assemblages. Using gill nets, the greatest catch of transient fishes and crustaceans were collected on oyster reefs and nonvegetated bottom. Although relatively low densities of small juvenile fishes were observed over deep oyster reefs, our community analyses and the high catch-per-unit-effort of large, transient species provide evidence that subtidal reefs are a critical habitat for numerous estuarine fishes and crustaceans.

KEY WORDS: oyster reef, essential fish habitat, nekton habitat use, estuarine habitat


Estuaries are productive natural ecosystems, with 75% of the economically important fishes and crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico using estuaries for "nursery" habitat (Chambers 1992, Minello 1999, Beck et al. 2001, Jackson et al. 2001). Legislative mandates have required resource managers to identify essential fish habitat (EFH) for fishes and crustaceans, and take measures to restore, protect, and preserve these areas (2007 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Public Law 94-265). Estuarine habitat types such as submerged aquatic vegetation (e.g., seagrasses), emergent intertidal marshes, and nonvegetated bottom have been thoroughly investigated, and their role as EFH is well documented (see reviews by Minello (1999) and Waycott et al. (2009)). Fishes and crustaceans occur at high densities in vegetated areas (Rozas & Minello 1998, Minello 1999, Beck et al. 2001, Stunz et al. 2002a), and experimental research has shown high growth rates and relatively low mortality (Stunz & Minello 2001, Stunz et al. 2001) among these vegetated estuarine habitats (Coen et al. 1999, Stunz & Minello 2001, Beck et al. 2001, Stunz et al. 2002b). However, eastern oyster reefs (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin) cover large expanses of many Gulf and Atlantic coast estuaries and are conspicuously missing from many of these comparative analyses. Research has largely focused on fringing intertidal oyster reefs and has clearly documented these areas as important habitat for fishes and crustaceans (Zimmerman et al. 1989, Coen et al. 1999, Posey et al. 1999, Peterson et al. 2003, Coen & Grizzle 2007, Stunz et al. 2010); however, very little research has assessed the habitat value of deep, subtidal oyster reefs.

Oyster reefs are both an estuarine habitat and fishery resource (Peterson et al. 2003). The majority of oyster reefs on the Gulf coast are subtidal (Kilgen & Dugas 1989), and oyster reef coverage has been greatly reduced in many areas as a result of overharvesting, reduced water quality, disease, and habitat destruction (Wenner et al. 1996, Coen et al. 1999, Kirby 2004, Johnson et al. 2009). For example, the percent coverage of oyster reefs has decreased by 60% in Lavaca Bay, TX, since 1913 (Simons et al. 2004). The continued loss of this estuarine habitat could affect numerous ecological processes, and scientists have limited data on fish and crustacean use of these areas to make informed decisions on the impact of this habitat loss. Clearly, subtidal oysters themselves are EFH because the oysters could not survive without the supporting reef structure (Coen et al. 1999), but it is far less certain what role these subtidal habitats offer estuarine fishes and crustaceans.

Few studies have been done on subtidal oyster reefs primarily because of difficulties with conventional gear in these deep, structurally complex habitat types. During the past 3 decades, several sampling techniques have been used to quantify habitat value of oyster reefs (see the review by Coen and Grizzle (2007)). For example, researchers sampling intertidal oyster reefs have used throw traps (Glancy et al. 2003), epibenthic pumps (Hosack et al. 2006), reef removal (Dame 1979), and drop samplers (Zimmerman et al. 1989, Shervette & Gelwick 2008, Stunz et al. 2010). However, these gear types have been met with various levels of success, and many are not an option, or have substantial limitations, on deep subtidal reefs. The studies that have described nekton abundance on subtidal oyster reefs have suggested that these deep habitats are essential habitat. Lehnert and Allen (2002) used experimental trays filled with oyster shells to determine nekton use of subtidal oyster shell accumulations, intertidal reefs, and nonvegetated bottom in North Inlet estuary, SC, and found high diversity and abundance of fishes on the subtidal oyster shells. Using similar experimental trays with oyster shells in Barataria Bay, LA, Plunket and La Peyre (2005) found that decapod crustaceans were twice as abundant on subtidal oyster reefs as on mud bottom. Gregalis et al. (2009) also used trays filled with oyster shell, as well as experimental gill nets, on restored oyster reefs and found high abundances of fishes and crustaceans using the deep reef habitats. Although these studies provided important evidence that subtidal oyster reefs may be an important habitat for numerous species, these sampling methods may not provide accurate density estimates (Rozas & Minello 1997), and many studies have only considered individual or groups of certain species. Moreover, it is also necessary to simultaneously compare relative value of oyster reef with other habitat types such as nonvegetated bottom and vegetated habitats (e.g., marsh).

The lack of quantitative data on nekton, benthic crustaceans, and transient fishes using subtidal oyster reefs, especially in relation to other putative estuarine habitat types, has hindered scientists from assessing the role reefs play in estuarine ecosystems. Thus, the overall goal of this study was to modify a traditional, quantitative gear that could effectively sample subtidal live oyster reefs and characterize their habitat role in estuarine ecosystems. Specifically, we addressed the following objectives: (1) modify a traditional sampling device to quantitatively sample deep subtidal oyster reefs, (2) determine the effectiveness of the modified gear in several estuarine habitats, and (3) quantify the density and community assemblage of fishes and crustaceans using subtidal oyster reefs, as well as marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation, and deep nonvegetated bottom habitats.


Modified Sampling Gear Trials

To test quantitatively for nekton density differences among subtidal and intertidal habitats, we slightly modified a type of commonly used sampling gear--an epibenthic sled (EBS)--for use in deep subtidal habitats. The EBS is towed by hand and consists of a metal frame with an opening of 0.75 m (height) by 0.6 m (length) with a l-mm mesh conical plankton net. The EBS has been shown to be effective and efficient in many studies (for examples and detailed descriptions see, Stunz et al. (2002a), Burfeind and Stunz (2006), and Reese et al. (2008)) among various habitat types, but is not designed to sample complex oyster reef structure. Therefore, we made slight modifications to the epibenthic sled (MES) for use in subtidal reefs by attaching steel teeth to the canvas-covered rectangular frame (78 cm wide x 30 cm high x 45 cm deep). The row of tines along the 0.78-m front bottom was designed to agitate and disrupt the oyster reef as the gear is towed. A coarse mesh (7 x 7-cm) panel was attached to the rear of the frame. This mesh was designed to exclude large oysters while allowing animals to pass through the netting to the cod end. The frame was covered in canvas, but the bottom of the MES was lined with chain mesh (9 x 9 cm) to disrupt and suspend momentarily oyster shell/clumps, and dislodge nekton and benthic crustaceans into the water column before being excluded, which could then be collected by the plankton net while oyster were excluded through the bottom. In all other respects, the MES was identical to the EBS in that it included a 1-mm mesh conical plankton net attached to the back of the frame, and aluminum runners/sleds along the sides for stability.

To calculate the effectiveness of the gear, we first standardized the MES with the original EBS among various habitat types. We sampled several shallow estuarine habitats using both gear types, allowing us to compare densities and therefore determine the effectiveness of the MES. Samples were collected in upper Laguna Madre, TX, in June 2006. We collected 10 replicate samples with each gear type, MES and EBS, in seagrass (Halodule wrightii), marsh edge (Spartina alterniflora), and shallow nonvegetated bottom, for a total of 30 samples per gear. The marsh edge interface is the ecotonal zone between open water and the emergent vegetation (Zimmerman et al. 1984, Baltz et al. 1993), and in our gear trials, marsh edge samples were within 1 m of the marsh vegetated edge over nonvegetated bottom. The MES was pulled by hand approximately 13 m and the EBS was pulled approximately 17 m, both covering 10 [m.sup.2] of bottom. Each adjacent pull (at least 10 m apart) occurred alternately along a marsh edge or seagrass transect. Samples were rough sorted in the field, removing large algae, and preserved in 10% formalin. In the laboratory, fishes and crustaceans were sorted, identified, quantified, and preserved in 70% ethanol.

Delineation of Sites and Sampling in Lavaca Bay, TX

We conducted the large-scale habitat use study in Lavaca Bay, TX, which is located in the northwest corner of the Matagorda Bay system on the central Texas coast (Fig. 1). Matagorda Bay is the 3rd largest bay system on the Texas coast, covering about 1,100 [km.sup.2] (Kilgen & Dugas 1989). The Lavaca and Navidad rivers combine and empty into the northeast corner of Lavaca Bay, providing the majority of freshwater and sediments to the bay system. Subtidal oyster reefs (C. virginica) are a large biogenic habitat in Lavaca Bay found in deep, open-water areas of the bay, and are commercially harvested. The other predominant habitat types in Lavaca Bay are submerged aquatic vegetation (H. wrightii) and intertidal salt marshes (S. alterniflora). This study focused on quantifying the density of fishes and crustaceans in 2 separate regions (upper and lower) and 4 different habitat types in Lavaca Bay: marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation (found only in lower Lavaca Bay), subtidal oyster reef, and deep nonvegetated bottom adjacent to subtidal reefs. In the upper regions, the marsh edges sampled were over nonvegetated bottom; in the lower regions, the marsh edge was often interspersed with submerged aquatic vegetation. Sampling was conducted in summer (July) and fall (October) 2006, and winter (February) and spring (April) 2007, for a total of 4 sampling events. There were 2 replicate sites per available habitat in both upper (except submerged aquatic vegetation) and lower Lavaca Bay, and triplicate samples were collected at all habitat sites, for a total of 42 samples for each sampling event.

The gear trials showed the MES has similar effectiveness to the EBS, but the steel teeth on the MES severely disrupt vegetated habitats. Because the EBS was not designed and was ineffective at sampling the subtidal oyster habitat type, and the MES severely damaged shallow vegetated habitats, we used the EBS in marsh and submerged aquatic vegetation habitats and the MES in the deep reef and nonvegetated bottom habitats. The EBS was pulled by hand about 17 m, covering 10 [m.sup.2] of bottom, and the MES was towed by boat to cover 100 [m.sup.2]. We selected a tow length of 100 [m.sup.2], because in preliminary testing on deep reefs we found very low abundance of organisms in subtidal habitats (Rozas & Minello 1997). Transient fishes and crustaceans were collected using 1 gill net (29 x 1 m, with 5-cm and 2.5-cm monofilament panels) per habitat site in both the upper and lower Lavaca Bay for a total of 12 per sampling event. Gill nets were set perpendicular to the shoreline for submerged aquatic vegetation and marsh edge sites; therefore, only 1 net was used for each marsh edge/submerged aquatic vegetation site. Soak times varied (4 h in summer; 2 h in fall, winter, and spring), and standardized catch-per-unit-effort was calculated for each set.


Samples collected with the EBS and MES were rough sorted in the field and preserved in 10% formalin. In the laboratory, fish and crustaceans were sorted, identified to lowest feasible taxon, measured to the nearest 0.1 mm standard length, and preserved in 70% ethanol. If more than 20 individuals were caught for each species or group, the largest and smallest, and 20 other random individuals were measured. Large, transient fishes collected from gill nets were counted, identified, and measured to the nearest millimeter total length. Seasonally at each site, water temperature (measured in degrees Celsius), dissolved oxygen (measured in milligrams per liter), salinity (psu), and depth (measured in meters) were measured using a Hydrolab Quanta (Hydrolab Corporation[R], Austin Texas). At subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom sites, we measured temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity from the surface and bottom. Marsh edge and submerged aquatic vegetation environmental parameters were combined into 1 site because they were directly adjacent to each other and, in upper Lavaca Bay, there was no submerged aquatic vegetation.

Data Analysis

We tested for differences in gear effectiveness among habitats with analysis of variance (ANOVA; [alpha] = 0.05) using the general linear model procedure in SAS version 9.1. Total catches were converted to number per square meter. We used a 2-way ANOVA with habitat (marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation, and nonvegetated bottom) and gear (EBS and MES) as the fixed main effects. We found a significant habitat-gear interaction in the ANOVA model ([F.sub.2,54] = 21.10; P < 0.001); therefore, we used a l-way main effects model using each habitat x gear combination (n = 6) as levels in the main treatment with a priori linear contrasts ([alpha] = 0.05) to test for density differences among gear and habitat. Habitat use patterns of total macrofauna collected in Lavaca Bay were analyzed using a partially nested hierarchical ANOVA model in SAS version 9.1. Densities were calculated for each habitat by converting total catches to number per square meter. The overall ANOVA model included region (upper and lower), season (summer, fall, winter, spring), and habitat (marsh edge, subtidal oyster reef, nonvegetated bottom) as fixed effects, and sites as random effects. Sites were nested within habitat, and season was used as a blocking variable because samples were only collected once each season. Submerged aquatic vegetation was not sampled in upper Lavaca Bay because it did not occur; therefore, we did not include it in the overall model. Using a 2nd ANOVA model, we tested differences of total macrofauna density in lower Lavaca Bay, which included all 4 habitat types. The fixed and random effects were the same as noted earlier, except region was excluded from the analysis. Catch data from the gill nets (measured as catch per unit effort (CPUE); number of fish per hour) was analyzed using the overall model with 3 habitats (marsh edge/submerged aquatic vegetation, subtidal oyster reef, and nonvegetated bottom). Physical parameters were also analyzed for differences among habitats, regions, and seasons using the overall model with 3 habitats (marsh edge/submerged aquatic vegetation, subtidal oyster reef, and nonvegetated bottom). For each model, the distribution of the residuals was analyzed using the UNIVARIATE procedure, and data were transformed (log l0 (x + 1)) to reduce heteroskedasticity. Mean differences in density and CPUE among regions and habitat types were tested using Tukey's Honestly Significant Difference (HSD) ([alpha] = 0.05).

We used a multivariate analysis to test for significant differences in community assemblages among habitats in Lavaca Bay, TX, using several routines from PRIMER v.6 (Clarke & Gorley 2006). We examined mean density of species collected seasonally for each habitat (16 total samples). Data were 4th root transformed prior to analysis to reduce the differential effects of dominant species and to differentiate between habitats having many or few rare species (Clarke & Green 1988). We determined community assemblage patterns among habitats using nonmetric multidimensional scaling (MDS) based on Bray-Curtis similarity, with Bray-Curtis cluster groups superimposed for interpretation (Clarke & Warwick 2001). We also used the BVSTEP procedure in the BEST routine to identify the species that contributed the most to the whole community pattern, which is a more holistic approach than the SIMPER routine. Using the identified species, we then created another resemblance matrix based on Bray-Curtis similarity and compared it with the original matrix (all species included) using the RELATE routine, with the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between the 2 similarity matrices, to determine whether we would find a similar community pattern with only the selected species (Clarke & Gorley 2006).


Sampling Gear Trials

We examined the effectiveness of the MES versus the EBS and found they collect similar densities of fish and crustaceans. Catch data are reported as mean [+ or -] SE throughout the Results section. There was no significant difference between the MES (2.15 [+ or -] 0.52/[m.sup.2]) and EBS (2.90 [+ or -] 0.98/[m.sup.2]) in submerged aquatic vegetation ([F.sub.1,54] = 0.010, P = 0.936). Similarly, in marsh edge there was no difference ([F.sub.1,54] = 0.980; P = 0.326) between gear (MES, 4.79 [+ or -] 0.84/[m.sup.2]; EBS, 3.33 [+ or -] 0.49/[m.sup.2]). Densities were also similar (MES, 0.16 [+ or -] 0.04/[m.sup.2]; EBS, 0.07 [+ or -] 0.04/[m.sup.2]) in nonvegetated bottom ([F.sub.1,54] = 0.150, P = 0.703). We also found no difference between the MES and the EBS among all habitats ([F.sub.1,54] = 0.560, P = 0.458).

Lavaca Bay Physical Parameters

We found seasonal and regional differences in physical parameters, with some differences among habitat types. There were no habitat region interactions; therefore, we were able to interpret habitat, season, and region main effects. Water depth was the only parameter that was different among habitats, with subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom significantly deeper than marsh edge and submerged aquatic vegetation sites. Regions were significantly different for all parameters and upper Lavaca Bay had significantly higher temperatures ([F.sub.1,45] = 8.17) and higher dissolved oxygen concentrations ([F.sub.1,45] = 10.41). Lower Lavaca Bay had significantly higher salinity ([F.sub.1,45] = 142.58) and greater depth ([F.sub.1,45] = 12.74). All physical parameters measured were different among seasons (Table 1).

Lavaca Bay Density and CPUE

We collected a total of 2,961 fishes from all habitats, representing at least 42 species from 23 families, and 15,056 crustaceans (13 species from 12 families) during the study period (Table 2). In the marsh edge habitat, we collected the most organisms, with 695 fishes (representing at least 28 species from 17 families) and 7,772 crustaceans (representing 9 species from 8 families). We collected 579 fishes and 5,847 crustaceans from the submerged aquatic vegetation habitat, representing 22 species from 12 families and 7 species from 6 families, respectively. The highest catch of fishes was on nonvegetated bottom, with 1,254 organisms collected (representing 21 species from 14 families). Bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli Valenciennes) was the dominant fish captured on nonvegetated bottom, accounting for 48% of total fishes collected. We also collected 802 crustaceans from nonvegetated bottom (12 species from 11 families). The fewest organisms were collected from the subtidal oyster reef habitat; we collected 433 fishes (representing 18 species from 13 families) and 635 crustaceans (representing 10 species from 9 families; Table 2). Crustaceans outnumbered fishes, accounting for about 84% of the total catch, with grass shrimp (Palaemonetes spp. Heller) representing 67% and penaeid shrimp accounting for 18% of the total crustaceans collected. Six species of fishes (bay anchovy, Atlantic croaker Micropogonias undulatus Linnaeus, pipefishes Syngnathus spp. Linneaus, naked goby Gobiosoma bosc Lacepede, Gulf menhaden Brevoortia patronus Goode, and pinfish Lagodon rhomboides Linneaus) represented 81% of the total fishes collected over all seasons (Table 2).

We examined overall density of nekton and benthic crustaceans collected among the habitats found in both regions and found significantly fewer in nonvegetated bottom (4.28 [+ or -] 0.28/ [m.sup.2]) and subtidal oyster reef (2.23 [+ or -] 0.99/[m.sup.2]) than in marsh edge (17.65 [+ or -] 2.38/[m.sup.2]) over all seasons and regions (Table 3, Fig. 2A). There was no region habitat interaction, but season was significant. We also assessed density of all 4 habitats in lower Lavaca Bay and found the highest densities of nekton and benthic crustaceans in submerged aquatic vegetation (26.76 [+ or -] 4.92/[m.sup.2]) and marsh edge (20.26 [+ or -] 3.31/[m.sup.2]) compared with nonvegetated bottom (2.91 [+ or -] 1.06/[m.sup.2]) and subtidal oyster reef (1.72 [+ or -] 0.34/[m.sup.2]) over all seasons (Table 3, Fig. 2B).

We found the greatest CPUE of transient fishes and crustaceans on subtidal oyster reef (13.33 [+ or -] 2.45 CPUE) and nonvegetated bottom (13.73 [+ or -] 2.37 CPUE) compared with shallow marsh edge/submerged aquatic vegetation habitats (3.34 [+ or -] 0.99 CPUE; Table 3, Fig. 3). Summer (14.92 [+ or -] 2.96 CPUE), fall (12.17 [+ or -] 2.41 CPUE), and spring (12.71 m 2.35 CPUE) catches were similar, with winter having the lowest CPUE (0.75 [+ or -] 0.29). We also captured more fishes in the upper region (12.00 [+ or -] 2.07 CPUE) than in the lower region (8.27 [+ or -] 0.29 CPUE; Table 3). We collected a total of 1,079 fishes and crustaceans. Gulf menhaden dominated the total catch and had a mean size of 166 [+ or -] 1.2 mm. Gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus Mitchill) and hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis Linnaeus) also contributed to the total catch and were collected primarily in subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom habitats. Most species were collected among all habitats; however, red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus Linnaeus) and black drum (Pogonias cromis Linnaeus) were collected only in the marsh edge/submerged aquatic vegetation habitat. Similarly, blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus Valenciennes), Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), and bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo Linnaeus) were only collected in subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom habitats (Table 4).

Lavaca Bay Community Assemblage

Community assemblage analysis showed similar results to the density patterns among habitats throughout both upper and lower Lavaca Bays. Bray-Curtis cluster analysis with SIMPROF test revealed 2 clusters--marsh edge and submerged aquatic vegetation, and subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom--at the 50% similarity level (P < 0.001; Fig. 4A). The MDS plot showed the same separation between vegetated habitats and subtidal habitats, and the separation was very clear with the cluster analysis superimposed at the 50% similarity level (Fig. 4B). We also assessed differences in species composition based on the 2 groups from the cluster and MDS analyses. Using the BEST routine, we found 14 species (Table 2) that correlated 95.2% of the community assemblages. We found a strong correlation between the original matrix (all species) and the BEST matrix (selected species) using the RELATE routine indicating that the matrices were similar (R = 0.952, P = 0.001). In general, the most abundant species were identified in the BEST routine as contributing to the community assemblage such as anchovies, pipefishes, several goby species, grass shrimp, penaeid shrimp species, blue crabs, and stone crabs (Menippe sp. De Haan). However, several flatfish species (Citharichthys spilopterus Gunter, Paralichthys lethostigma Jordan and Gilbert, Symphurus plagiusa Linnaeus, and Achirus lineatus Linnaeus) that had relatively low densities contributed to the overall community structure among habitats. Snapping shrimp (Alpheus heterochaelis Say) were also collected in low densities, but did contribute to community assemblage differences (Table 2).


Sampling Gear Trials

A major focus of this study was to assess whether an MES could quantitatively sample deep, structurally complex oyster reef. We collected similar densities of fishes and crustaceans between the MES and EBS gear types in all habitats sampled (submerged aquatic vegetation, marsh edge, and nonvegetated bottom), indicating that the MES is effective at capturing small fishes and crustaceans from numerous estuarine habitat types. Because the EBS cannot be used in deep habitats, it was not possible to include subtidal oyster reef into the initial gear comparison trials. Despite these limitations, we are confident in the functionality of the MES's effectiveness on deep subtidal habitats, and initial observational testing in clear water showed the MES was turning over the oysters while simultaneously collecting small organisms. However, a limitation of the MES was that it severely disrupts vegetated habitats as the front teeth dig into the substrate. This was by design, because the dredging is ideal for disrupting and sampling oyster reef, but it made the gear difficult to tow by hand, and we do not recommended it for use in shallow or vegetated habitat types. Overall, our results show evidence that the MES functions well, and we recommend this gear for sampling deep reef, although caution should be taken when extrapolating our relative density estimates in subtidal oyster reef to absolute abundance numbers.

Lavaca Bay Density and CPUE

We found differences in fish and crustacean density among habitats in Lavaca Bay, TX. Most notably were differences between the shallow vegetated habitats and the deep subtidal oyster reef and adjacent nonvegetated bottom. Fish and crustacean densities in shallow vegetated marsh habitat were 3-fold higher than both deep nonvegetated bottom and subtidal oyster reef in both upper and lower Lavaca Bay. Environmental water characteristics most likely did not contribute to these differences because water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity were similar among habitats. The only parameter that differed was depth, but subtidal and nonvegetated bottom habitats were expected to be much deeper than submerged aquatic vegetation and marsh edge. High nekton and benthic crustacean densities in shallow vegetated habitats over nonvegetated bottom is consistent with much current research that has shown that these organisms use shallow vegetated areas because these habitats provide increased growth and survival compared with areas with limited or no structure (Stunz & Minello 2001, Stunz et al. 2002a, Nanez-James et al. 2009, Stunz et al. 2010).


We found very low densities of fishes and crustaceans on subtidal oyster reef, which contrasts numerous studies showing that structurally complex oyster reef systems support very high density, biomass, and richness of estuarine nekton and benthic crustaceans (Coen et al. 1999, Coen & Grizzle 2007, Stunz et al. 2010). However, most of these studies described assemblages and densities on shallow intertidal reefs or on shell accumulations, not deep oyster beds. The low densities we observed could be the result of several reasons. First, the subtidal reefs we sampled are commercially fished via dredging, and may have low vertical relief as a result of this fishing pressure (Coen et al. 1999). Without vertical relief, there is reduced complexity resulting from limited refuge available to them and their prey (Zimmerman et

al. 1989, Lenihan et al. 2001, Gregalis et al. 2009). Second, deep oyster habitats were separated from shallow vegetated habitats by large expanses of nonvegetated bottom. Without a connection to shallower vegetated areas, there may be minimal movement of nekton to deep, complex habitats, also attributing to the low densities on subtidal oyster reefs (Lehnert & Allen 2002). Moreover, these results clearly point toward a need for a direct comparison of subtidal and intertidal oyster reefs. This is particularly the case for Gulf coast estuaries, where the daily tidal range is very limited and these reefs and nearby marshes stay submerged at least 78% of time (Minello & Webb 1997). Finally, we did not directly assess the predation fields among these habitat types, and there is the potential that very different trophic cascade dynamics may exist on the deeper reefs that may affect community structure and abundance (Grabowski 2004, Grabowski & Powers 2004).


Several studies have demonstrated that different trophic linkages and connectivity between different estuarine habitats can affect nekton and benthic crustacean assemblage, density, prey mortality, and growth (Irlandi & Crawford 1997, Micheli & Peterson 1999, Grabowski et al. 2005). Lehnert and Allen (2002) showed that subtidal shell rubble directly adjacent to intertidal reefs sustains very high densities of fishes compared with nonvegetated bottom. The subtidal reef accumulations were directly adjacent to intertidal reef and were connected via a large tidal range (1.7 m), and the authors proposed to include these shell habitats as EFH (Lehnert and Allen 2002). Gain (2009) showed that estuarine habitats that are connected have synergistic relationships. Gain (2009) found that oyster reefs embedded in other structurally complex habitat types, such as submerged aquatic vegetation, sustained higher densities of fishes and crustaceans than when they were near nonvegetated bottom alone. Unlike these studies, we sampled subtidal habitats with limited or no connectivity to shallow vegetated habitats with a very small tidal range (0.4 m) (Britton & Morton 1989). The deep reefs were isolated from other structurally complex, shallow habitats, which may account for the very low density of small fishes and crustaceans collected in these areas (Grabowski et al. 2005).


Despite the low densities collected, our community analysis did show different assemblages of nekton and benthic crustaceans over deep reefs and nonvegetated bottom. Resident species dominated the catch on subtidal reef, such as xanthid, porcelain, and stone crabs; as well as bay anchovies and several goby species. Bay anchovies are typically ubiquitous throughout the bay and water column, and may have been collected as the MES was pulled to the surface (North & Houde 2004). However, the benthic crustaceans and fishes captured use subtidal oyster shell throughout their life history, because it provides appropriate spawning habitat (Breitburg 1999, Harding & Mann 2001, Lehnert & Allen 2002). The majority of estuarine-dependent species such as red drum, pinfish, Atlantic croaker, and blue crab were absent from subtidal oyster reef. Most juvenile estuarine-dependent species were found in marsh and submerged aquatic vegetation, similar to many other studies (Day et al. 1989, Minello 1999, Beck et al. 2001, Stunz et al. 2002a, Stunz et al. 2010), suggesting that subtidal oyster reef may not be EFH for these particular recruiting species. Although estuarine-dependent species were not collected in these deep areas, the community analysis distinctly shows differences in assemblage that provides evidence that these areas are required habitat for numerous other estuarine fishes and crustaceans.

Although the density estimates of small fishes and crustaceans were low, we collected nearly twice as many large, transient fish over subtidal oyster reef and nonvegetated bottom than in the shallow habitats. In a companion trophic study in Lavaca Bay, TX, Wrast (2008) found that subtidal oyster reef supports a more robust food web than nonvegetated bottom and shallow vegetated habitats. Our findings are consistent with a large number of fishes collected over both subtidal reef and nonvegetated bottom--in particular, large predators such as Gafftopsail and hardhead catfish, as well as Gulf kingfish and several shark species. Because nonvegetated bottom habitats were sampled adjacent to oyster reefs, there was most likely movement and integration between these habitats, explaining why catches were similar. Although depth may have affected CPUE in deep and shallow habitats because gill nets typically work better in deeper habitats, we feel our data suggest open-water areas are very important for large, transient fishes, because they may be critical foraging grounds for these larger estuarine predators.

This study provides evidence of the role deep subtidal oyster reefs play in the complex matrix of estuarine habitats. We used a novel sampling approach to quantify use of subtidal reefs by fishes and crustaceans to compare densities with well-studied vegetated habitats. The MES provides a viable and effective way of sampling subtidal oyster reefs when other conventional gear is not feasible. However, as with any gear, the potential exists for certain limitations and biases; therefore, our density estimates should be interpreted cautiously, particularly as they relate to calculating absolute density estimates. Although we found relatively low density of nekton and decapod crustaceans over subtidal reef compared with vegetated habitat types, these areas are clearly important for numerous estuarine resident species as well as large, transient predators. Moreover, given the large areal coverage in many estuaries, these oyster reefs have the potential for high production of estuarine nekton. More studies on the habitat role of subtidal reefs are warranted--in particular, those that directly compare nekton and benthic crustacean density between subtidal and intertidal reefs, given that recent research has shown intertidal oyster reefs support very high densities of estuarine nekton (Coen et al. 1999, Coen & Grizzle 2007, Stunz et al. 2010). This information would have clear restoration implications and will be essential in determining the habitat role oyster reefs serve along the Gulf of Mexico.


The authors thank Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) State Wildlife Grant and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) for funding this research. They particularly thank J. Wrast for assisting with field logistics and data collection. This research would not have been possible without the members of the Fisheries Ecology Lab at TAMUCC, and the authors particularly thank J. Froeschke for helping with the analysis; and R. Aguayo, S. Bayer, L. Brown, A. Bushon, R. Calderon, and M. Castrorena for their field and laboratory assistance. They also thank 2 anonymous reviewers that greatly improved this manuscript.


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(1) Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Department of Life Sciences, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412; (2) Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 6300 Ocean Drive, NRC 2509, Corpus Christi, TX 78412

* Corresponding author. E-mail:

Mean environmental parameters (SE) for habitats in both upper and
lower Lavaca Bay collected seasonally from July 2006 through
April 2007.

                         Marsh Edge/Submerged
                          Aquatic Vegetation

                         Upper            Lower
    Parameter        Mean     SE     Mean     SE

Water temperature    22.1    (6.6)   22.6    (4.7)
Dissolved oxygen      8.7    (1.5)    7.3    (1.5)
Salinity (psu)       13.0    (3.1)   18.0    (2.8)
Water depth (m)       0.7    (0.2)    0.5    (0.1)

                             Subtidal Oyster

                         Upper           Lower
    Parameter        Mean     SE     Mean     SE

Water temperature    19.7    (5.9)   21.9    (5.5)
Dissolved oxygen      8.7    (2.1)    7.9    (1.8)
Salinity (psu)       11.8    (3.2)   19.0    (2.7)
Water depth (m)       2.0    (0.4)    1.8    (0.2)

                           Nonvegetated Bottom

                         Upper           Lower
    Parameter        Mean     SE     Mean     SE

Water temperature    21.1    (6.3)   21.9    (5.5)
Dissolved oxygen      8.2    (1.7)    8.0    (1.9)
Salinity (psu)       12.8    (3.8)   18.7    (2.7)
Water depth (m)       2.0    (0.3)    1.6    (0.3)

                        P Value       P Value      P Value
                     for Habitat    for Region    for Season
    Parameter           Effect        Effect       Effect

Water temperature       0.218         0.006 *       <0.001 *
Dissolved oxygen        0.764         0.002 *       <0.001 *
Salinity (psu)          0.905        <0.001 *       <0.001
Water depth (m)        <0.001 *      <0.001 *       <0.001

Mean and SE were calculated from measurements taken twice per
season over 4 seasons (n = 8). During July 2006, only 1 sample
was collected the subtidal oyster reef, therefore, n = 7 for
all parameters. ANOVA was used to test for differences among
habitats, regions, and seasons. Season used as a blocking
variable because samples were only collected once each season and
the region x habitat interaction was not significant.

* Value was significant.


Overall mean density as number per square meter and SE of all
collected fishes and crustaceans in 4 habitat types, including
BEST analysis results.

                                                      Total      RA
      Common Name              Scientific Name        Catch     (%)

Total fishes                                           2,961     16.4
Bay anchovy *             Anchoa mitchilli               894      5.0
Atlantic croaker          Micropogonias undulates        502      2.8
Pipefish                  Syngnathus spp.                321      1.8
Naked goby *              Gohiosoma bosc                 261      1.4
Gulf menhaden *           Brevoortia patronus            243      1.3
Pinfish                   Lagodon rhomboids              183      1.0
Green goby                Microgobius thalassinus        163      0.9
Darter goby               Gobionellus boleosoma           58      0.3
Star drum                 Stelliflr lanceolatus           45      0.2
Goby species              Gobiidae                        32      0.2
Red drum                  Sciaenops ocellatus             32      0.2
Bay whiff *               Citharichthys spilopterus       30      0.2
Code goby                 Gobiosoma robustum              29      0.2
Spotfin mojarra           Eucinostomus argenteus          23      0.1
Southern flounder *       Paralichthys lethostigma        18      0.1
Blackcheek tonguefish *   Symphurus plagiusa              16      0.1
Lined sole *              Achirus lineatus                15      0.1
Diamond killfish          Adinia xenica                   14      0.1
Spotted seatrout          Cynoscion nebulosus             12      0.1
Sheepshead minnow         Cyprinodon variegates           10      0.1
Black drum                Pogonias cromis                  9      0.0
Unidentified fish         Unidentified Fish                0      0.0
Stripped mullet           Mugil cephalus                   5      0.0
Clown goby                Microgobius gulosus              4      0.0
Silver perch              Bairdiella chrysoura             3      0.0
Dwarf seahorse            Hippocampus zosterae             3      0.0
Frillfin gobies *         Bathygobius spp.                 2      0.0
Clingfish                 Gobisox spp.                     2      0.0
Tripletail                Lobotes surinamensis             2      0.0
Rainwater killfish        Lucania parva                    2      0.0
Atlantic silverside       Menidia menidia                  2      0.0
Shrimp eel                Ophichthus gomesii               2      0.0
Tonguefish                Symphurus spp.                   2      0.0
Inshore lizardfish        Synodus foetens                  2      0.0
Needlefish                Belonidae                        1      0.0
Striped blenny            Chastnodes bosquianus           l       0.0
Mojarra species           Eucinostomus spp.                1      0.0
Sharptail goby            Gobionessus oceanicus            1      0.0
Lined Seahorse            Hippocampus erectus              1      0.0
Grey snapper              Lutjanus griseus                 1      0.0
Inland silverside         Menidia beryllina                1      0.0
Southern kingfish         Menticirrhus americanus          1      0.0
Pigfish                   Orthopristis chrysoptera         1      0.0
Least puffer              Sphoeroides parvus               1      0.0
Hogchoker                 Trinectes maculatus              1      0.0
Total crustaceans                                     15,056     83.6
Grass shrimp              Palaemonetes ssp.           10,063     55.8
Penaeid shrimp *          Penaeidae                    2,649     14.7
White shrimp *            Litopenaeus setiferus          568      3.2
Grooved penaeid           Farfantepenaeus spp.           371      2.1
  shrimp *
Arrow shrimp              Tozeuma carolinense            342      1.9
Blue crab                 Callinectes sapidus            312      1.7
Xanthid crabs             Xanthidae                      290      1.6
Longeye shrimp            Ogyrides spp.                  216      1.2
Stone crabs *             Menippe spp.                   108     0.06
Porcelain crabs           Porcellanidae                   73     0.04
Brown shrimp              Farfantepenaeus aztecus         52      0.3
Snapping shrimp *         41pheus heterochaelis            5      0.0
Mantis shrimp             Stomatopoda                      4      0.0
Pea crabs                 Pinnixa spp.                     2      0.0
Longnose spider           Libinia dubia                    1      0.0

                             Marsh Edge         Vegetation
      Common Name          Mean      SE      Mean      SE

Total fishes
Bay anchovy *               0.31   (0.14)     0.00   (0.00)
Atlantic croaker            0.27   (0.12)     0.11   (0.05)
Pipefish                    0.37   (0.21)     0.56   (0.15)
Naked goby *                0.08   (0.03)     0.54   (0.22)
Gulf menhaden *             0.00   (0.00)     0.00   (0.00)
Pinfish                     0.09   (0.03)     0.59   (0.22)
Green goby                  0.02   (0.01)     0.13   (0.07)
Darter goby                 0.01   (0.00)     0.15   (0.06)
Star drum                   0.06   (0.03)     0.05   (0.04)
Goby species                0.00   (0.00)     0.02   (0.01)
Red drum                    0.05   (0.02)     0.03   (0.01)
Bay whiff *                 0.00   (0.00)     0.01   (0.01)
Code goby                    --       --      0.11   (0.04)
Spotfin mojarra             0.04   (0.01)     0.03   (0.02)
Southern flounder *         0.04   (0.01)     0.00   (0.00)
Blackcheek tonguefish *     0.01   (0.01)     0.00   (0.00)
Lined sole *                0.02   (0.01)     0.01   (0.01)
Diamond killfish            0.03   (0.02)      --       --
Spotted seatrout            0.01     0.03   (0.10)      --
Sheepshead minnow           0.02   (0.01)      --       --
Black drum                   --       --       --       --
Unidentified fish            --       --       --       --
Stripped mullet             0.01   (0.01)      --       --
Clown goby                  0.00   (0.00)     0.00   (0.00)
Silver perch                0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Dwarf seahorse               --       --      0.01   (0.01)
Frillfin gobies *            --       --       --       --
Clingfish                    --       --       --       --
Tripletail                  0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Rainwater killfish          0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Atlantic silverside          --       --      0.01   (0.01)
Shrimp eel                  0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Tonguefish                  0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Inshore lizardfish           --       --      0.00   (0.00)
Needlefish                  0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Striped blenny               --       --       --       --
Mojarra species              --       --      0.00   (0.00)
Sharptail goby              0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Lined Seahorse               --       --      0.00   (0.00)
Grey snapper                0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Inland silverside            --       --       --       --
Southern kingfish           0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Pigfish                      --       --       --       --
Least puffer                 --       --       --       --
Hogchoker                    --       --       --       --
Total crustaceans
Grass shrimp               11.88   (2.23)    17.77   (4.56)
Penaeid shrimp *            2.29   (0.47)     4.25   (1.12)
White shrimp *              1.03   (0.35)     0.26   (0.08)
Grooved penaeid             0.29   (0.09)     0.50   (0.11)
  shrimp *
Arrow shrimp                0.02   (0.01)     1.02   (0.38)
Blue crab                   0.41   (0.08)     0.35   (0.13)
Xanthid crabs               0.19   (0.06)     0.15   (0.09)
Longeye shrimp               --       --      0.01   (0.01)
Stone crabs *               0.04   (0.02)      --       --
Porcelain crabs             0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Brown shrimp                0.04   (0.02)     0.06   (0.02)
Snapping shrimp *           0.00   (0.00)      --       --
Mantis shrimp                --       --       --       --
Pea crabs                    --       --       --       --
Longnose spider              --       --       --       --

                              Subtidal        Nonvegetated
                            Oyster Reef          Bottom
      Common Name          Mean      SE      Mean       SE

Total fishes
Bay anchovy *               0.28   (0.09)     1.27     (0.62)
Atlantic croaker            0.34   (0.12)     0.38     (0.12)
Pipefish                    0.00   (0.00)     0.02     (0.01)
Naked goby *                0.11   (0.03)     0.09     (0.04)
Gulf menhaden *             0.04   (0.02)     0.46     (0.17)
Pinfish                     0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Green goby                  0.05   (0.01)     0.21     (0.07)
Darter goby                 0.01   (0.00      0.03     (0.01)
Star drum                   0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Goby species                0.03   (0.02)     0.03     (0.01)
Red drum                     --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Bay whiff *                 0.02   (0.01)     0.03     (0.01)
Code goby                   0.00   (0.00)     0.00     (0.00)
Spotfin mojarra              --       --       --         --
Southern flounder *          --       --       --         --
Blackcheek tonguefish *     0.00   (0.00)     0.01     (0.01)
Lined sole *                 --       --      0.01     (0.01)
Diamond killfish             --       --       --         --
Spotted seatrout             --      0.00   (0.00)
Sheepshead minnow            --
Black drum                  0.00   (0.00)     0.01     (0.01)
Unidentified fish           0.00   (0.00)     0.01     (0.01)
Stripped mullet              --       --       --         --
Clown goby                   --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Silver perch                 --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Dwarf seahorse               --       --       --         --
Frillfin gobies *            --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Clingfish                   0.00   (0.00)     0.00     (0.00)
Tripletail                  0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Rainwater killfish                             --         --
Atlantic silverside          --       --       --         --
Shrimp eel                   --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Tonguefish                   --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Inshore lizardfish          0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Needlefish                   --       --       --         --
Striped blenny              0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Mojarra species              --       --       --         --
Sharptail goby               --       --       --         --
Lined Seahorse               --       --       --         --
Grey snapper                 --       --       --         --
Inland silverside            --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Southern kingfish            --       --       --         --
Pigfish                     0.00   (0.00)      --         --
Least puffer                 --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Hogchoker                    --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Total crustaceans
Grass shrimp                0.09   (0.02)     0.11     (0.07)
Penaeid shrimp *            0.45   (0.10)     0.66     (0.16)
White shrimp *              0.02   (0.01)     0.01     (0.01)
Grooved penaeid             0.13   (0.04)     0.10     (0.05)
  shrimp *
Arrow shrimp                 --       --      0.19     (0.18)
Blue crab                   0.02   (0.01)     0.04     (0.02)
Xanthid crabs               0.27   (0.06)     0.07     (0.04)
Longeye shrimp              0.05   (0.02)     0.40     (0.15)
Stone crabs *               0.14   (0.04)     0.05     (0.02)
Porcelain crabs             0.13   (0.06)     0.02     (0.01)
Brown shrimp                0.02   (0.01)     0.02     (0.01)
Snapping shrimp *           0.00   (0.00)     0.01     (0.01)
Mantis shrimp               0.01   (0.00)      --      (0.00)
Pea crabs                    --       --      0.00     (0.00)
Longnose spider              --       --      0.00     (0.00)

The EBS was used for marsh edge and submerged aquatic vegetation
samples, and the MES was used for subtidal oyster reef and
nonvegetated  bottom samples. The total number and relative
abundance (RA; number of individuals/total number of animals
collected x 100) also are given.

* Species that contribute the most to the community structure for
each habitat from BEST analysis. A dash (--) indicates no catch.


ANOVA table for total macrofauna density (sum of total fishes and
crustaceans; overall model and lower Lavaca Bay model) and
transient fish CPUE (gill net model) in Lavaca Bay, TX.

                               Sum of    Mean
Source                   df    Squares   Square   F Value   P Value

Overall model
  Region                   1    0.013    0.013     0.450     0.5048
  Season                   3    0.308    0.103     3.530    0.0167 *
  Habitat                  2    2.904    1.452    50.020     <0.001
  Sites (habitat)          3    0.047    0.016     0.550     0.6521
  Region x habitat         2    0.053    0.027     0.910     0.4036
  Residual               132    3.831    0.029
Lower Lavaca Bay model
  Season                   3    0.150    0.050     1.090     0.3568
  Habitat                  3    4.863    1.621    35.300     <0.001
  Sites (habitat)          4    0.101    0.025     0.550     0.6977
  Residual               157    7.210    0.046
Gill net model
  Region                   1    0.303    0.303     6.980    0.0132 *
  Season                   3    4.633    1.544    35.600    <0.001 *
  Habitat                  2    2.050    1.025    23.630     <0.001
  Sites (Habitat)          3    0.106    0.035     0.810     0.4983
  Region x habitat         2    0.141    0.070     1.620     0.2144
  Residual                29    1.258    0.043

The overall model for macrofauna density tested for the main
effects of region (2 levels), season, and only 3 habitat levels,
because submerged aquatic vegetation did not occur in upper
Lavaca Bay. We also tested for differences in total macrofauna
density among all 4 habitats in the lower Lavaca Bay only (no
region effect, lower Lavaca Bay model). Data collected from gill
nets (CPUE) were also tested for the main effects of region (2
levels), habitat (3 levels), and season. Season was blocked for
all models to control for seasonal variability.

* ANOVA probability value significant at the 5% level.


Overall mean CPUE, size (in millimeters), SE, and total catch of
all fishes and crustaceans collected from gill nets in Lavaca Bay, TX.

                                                 Total          RA
Common Name          Scientific Name             Catch         (%)

Gulf menhaden        Brevoortia patronus          507          47.0
Gafftopsail          Bagre marinus                136          12.6
Hardhead catfish     Ariopsis felis               131          12.1
Spot                 Leiostomus xanthurus          65          6.0
Gulf kingfish        Menticirrhus littoralis       57          5.3
Atlantic threadfin   Polydactylus octonemus        48          4.4
Sand seatrout        Cynoscion arenarius           24          2.2
Gizzard shad         Dorosomapetenense             16          1.5
Atlantic croaker     Micropogonias undulates       15          1.4
Spotted seatrout     Cynoscion nebulosus           13          1.2
Sheepshead           Archosargus                   10          0.9
Silver perch         Bairdiella chrysoura          9           0.8
Crevalle jack        Caranx hippos                 7           0.6
Black drum           Pogonias cromis               6           0.6
Red drum             Sciaenops ocellatus           6           0.6
Striped mullet       Mugil cephalus                5           0.5
Blacktip shark       Carcharhinus limbatus         4           0.4
Spanish mackerel     Scomberomorus maculates       4           0.4
Bonnethead shark     Sphyrna tiburo                4           0.4
American             Peprilus paru                 3           0.3
Blue crab            Callinectes sapidus           2           0.2
Ladyfish             Elops saurus                  2           0.2
Pinfish              Lagodon rhomboids             2           0.2
Bluefish             Pomatomus saltatrix           1           0.1
White shrimp         Litopenaeus setiferus         1           0.1
Pigfish              Orthopristis                  1           0.1

                                  Marsh Edge/Submerged
                                  Aquatic Vegetation

                        Mean                   Mean Size
Common Name             CPUE          SE          (mm)          SE

Gulf menhaden           0.91        (0.6)         151         (1.5)
Gafftopsail              --           --           --           --
Hardhead catfish        0.97        (0.6)         244         (8.4)
Spot                    0.03        (0.0)          70         (0.0)
Gulf kingfish           0.16        (0.1)         230         (9.l)
Atlantic threadfin     0.093        (0.0)         203         (0.0)
Sand seatrout            --           --           --           --
Gizzard shad             --           --           --           --
Atlantic croaker        0.03        (0.0)         201         (0.0)
Spotted seatrout        0.14        (0.1)         269         (5.5)
Sheepshead              0.31        (0.1)         303         (29.3)

Silver perch            0.13        (0.1)         186         (3.3)
Crevalle jack           0.02        (0.0)         141         (0.0)
Black drum              0.19        (0.1)         327         (12.1)
Red drum                0.19        (0.1)         445         (29.3)
Striped mullet          0.14        (0.1)         276         (39.5)
Blacktip shark           --           --           --           --
Spanish mackerel         --           --           --           --
Bonnethead shark         --           --           --           --
American                 --           --           --           --
Blue crab               0.03        (0.0)         161         (0.0)
Ladyfish                0.02        (0.0)         360         (0.0)
Pinfish                  --           --           --           --
Bluefish                0.03        (0.0)         183         (0.0)
White shrimp             --           --           --           --
Pigfish                  --           --           --           --

                     Edge/                Subtidal Oyster Reef

                                     Mean                   Mean Size
Common Name              n           CPUE          SE          (mm)

Gulf menhaden            29          6.67        (1.5)         168
Gafftopsail              --          1.72        (0.4)         404
Hardhead catfish         32          1.45        (0.5)         231
Spot                     1           1.00        (0.6)         176
Gulf kingfish            5           0.59        (0.3)         228
Atlantic threadfin       1           0.47        (0.2)         178
Sand seatrout            --          0.42        (0.2)         273
Gizzard shad             --          0.22        (0.2)         171
Atlantic croaker         1           0.19        (0.1)         179
Spotted seatrout         5           0.11        (0.1)         374
Sheepshead               10           --           --           --

Silver perch             4           0.06        (0.0)         175
Crevalle jack            1           0.09        (0.1)         154
Black drum               6            --           --           --
Red drum                 6            --           --           --
Striped mullet           5            --           --           --
Blacktip shark           --          0.03        (0.0)         509
Spanish mackerel         --          0.09        (0.l)         548
Bonnethead shark         --          0.03        (0.0)         629
American                 --          0.03        (0.0)         166
Blue crab                1           0.03        (0.0)         120
Ladyfish                 1            --           --           --
Pinfish                  --          0.02        (0.0)         118
Bluefish                 1            --           --           --
White shrimp             --          0.03         (0.)         162
Pigfish                  --          0.03         (0.)         163

                       Subtidal Oyster Reef      Nonvegetated Bottom
Common Name              SE           n           CPUE          SE

Gulf menhaden          (2.0)         229          6.83        (1.7)
Gafftopsail            (16.5)         68          1.84        (0.6)
Hardhead catfish       (6.1)          49          1.42        (0.5)
Spot                   (2.6)          32          0.95        (0.5)
Gulf kingfish          (5.4)          21          0.89        (0.6)
Atlantic threadfin     (2.7)          15          1.00        (0.5)
Sand seatrout          (9.0)          18          0.14        (0.1)
Gizzard shad           (3.3)          7           0.16        (0.1)
Atlantic croaker       (2.2)          10          0.11        (0.1)
Spotted seatrout       (46.5)         5           0.06        (0.0)
Sheepshead               --           --           --           --

Silver perch           (0.5)          2           0.09        (0.1)
Crevalle jack          (7.1)          4           0.03        (0.0)
Black drum               --           --           --           --
Red drum                 --           --           --           --
Striped mullet           --           --           --           --
Blacktip shark         (81.5)         2           0.03        (0.0)
Spanish mackerel       (7.6)          3            3          (0.0)
Bonnethead shark       (23.5)         2           0.03        (0.0)
American               (0.0)          1           0.05        (0.0)
Blue crab              (0.0)          1            --           --
Ladyfish                 --           --          0.03        (0.0)
Pinfish                (0.0)          1           0.03        (0.0)
Bluefish                 --           --           --           --
White shrimp           (0.0)          1            --           --
Pigfish                (0.0)          1            --           --

                                Nonvegetated Bottom

                     Mean Size
Common Name            (mm)          SE             n

Gulf menhaden           167         (1.3)          249
Gafftopsail             402         (17.4)          68
Hardhead catfish        240         (8.5)           50
Spot                    165         (2.4)           32
Gulf kingfish           220         (3.5)           31
Atlantic threadfin      182         (1.5)           32
Sand seatrout           287         (26.7)          6
Gizzard shad            172         (1.9)           9
Atlantic croaker        178         (4.6)           4
Spotted seatrout        247         (13.5)          3
Sheepshead               --           --

Silver perch            174         (3.5)           3
Crevalle jack           152         (3.5)           2
Black drum               --           --
Red drum                 --           --
Striped mullet           --           --
Blacktip shark          419         (15.5)          2
Spanish mackerel        539         (0.0)           1
Bonnethead shark        618         (17.0)          2
American                143         (67.0)          2
Blue crab                --           --
Ladyfish                348         (0.0)           1
Pinfish                 126         (0.0)           1
Bluefish                 --           --            --
White shrimp             --           --            --
Pigfish                  --           --            --

Mean values were calculated from 16 total samples per habitat type.
The total number and relative abundance (RA; number of individuals/
total number of animals collected x 100) also are given. An em
dash (--) indicates no catch.
COPYRIGHT 2010 National Shellfisheries Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Robillard, Megan M. Reese; Stunz, Gregory W.; Simons, James
Publication:Journal of Shellfish Research
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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