Publication Date

2011-04-20

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2011-04-20

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense

2011-04-11

First Committee Member

Daniel O. Suman

Second Committee Member

Joseph E. Serafy

Third Committee Member

Maria L. Estevanez

Abstract

The work of this Master of Science thesis project is an analysis of salinity effects on nearshore epifauna along the western shore of Biscayne Bay in southeast Florida, USA. Field collection surveys have found a high probability of occurrence of bigeye mojarra (Eucinostomus havana) in salinities near 25 ppt. In a salinity gradient observation experiment test subjects of the same species and size class were also observed more frequently at 24 ppt. In this analysis presence and abundance patterns found in field surveys were compared with behavioral results obtained in the observation tank. This apparatus provided insight into distribution patterns of the bigeye mojarra (Eucinostomus havana) and possible changes in distribution that may result from habitat changes in the future. Historically, the western shore of Biscayne Bay was more freshwater marsh than the mangrove dominated marine environment that prevails today. Changes to fresh water inputs into the Bay are planned through projects of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP is a joint Florida state and U.S. federal effort to redesign surface water flow through the canal system of South Florida, replenish the Everglades ecosystem, and restore a more natural quantity, timing, and distribution of flow into Biscayne and Florida Bays. Approved by the U.S. Congress as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, CERP will be implemented by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). This plan is designed to restore the ecosystem from its freshwater core to the coastal wetlands recreating a condition close to that existing before the current system of flood control drainage canals was begun in 1903 and continued by the federal Central and Southern Florida Project in 1948 (www.evergladesplan.org). Changes are planned to divert a portion of canal flows to Biscayne Bay into coastal wetlands as sheet flow and surface runoff. Planned changes to freshwater delivery may change the habitat along the shoreline and thus the distribution of prey organisms living in this habitat. This may in turn affect predator fish important to local recreational and commercial fisheries as well as other predators such as wading birds. The analysis and prediction provided in this thesis work is important for better understanding the effects of restoration efforts on the Bay nearshore habitat and its condition as essential fish habitat, which is federally regulated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens, 1996). The distribution of small fish and invertebrate inhabitants of the nearshore environment and habitat environmental qualities have been recorded over the past five years from throw-trap surveys of the western shoreline of Biscayne Bay as part of a CERP-sponsored monitoring program. This pattern is correlated with salinity, but there may be other factors affecting the distribution of this species.

Keywords

mojarra; salinity; everglades restoration; gradient; preference testing; behavior observation

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