R/E-24D

Interspecific Interaction Between Ctenophores and Forage Fishes in Maryland Coastal Bays Using Stable Isotopes

Principal Investigator:

Christina Bradley

Start/End Year:

2019 - 2020

Institution:

Salisbury University

Co-Principal Investigator:

Sarah Cvach, Salisbury University

Topic(s):

Strategic focus area:

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

Description:

This study looks to elucidate the diets and drivers of interspecific interactions between dominant ctenophores and forage fishes in the Maryland Coastal Bays. Samples of zooplankton, ctenophores, bay anchovies and silver perch will be taken from various sites in the five predominant bays along Ocean City and Assateague Island in Maryland. Assessment of dietary overlap will be evaluated through stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen. Additionally, measurements of salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen will be taken to analyze possible correlative relationships between abiotic factors and interspecific interactions within the coastal bays. Over the course of the year, water quality variations may change to favor juvenile forage fishes or ctenophores, impacting biomass and productivity of these individuals. It is expected that forage fish and ctenophores will exhibit interspecific interactions both in competition for food and predation of each other. Along with overlap of habitat, these interactions may impact coastal fisheries health through changes in stocks of game fish and other larger species targeted by anglers that consume smaller forage fishes as part of their diet. Limitations on available resources for forage fishes as a result of competition with the dominant ctenophore species could drive reduced commercial harvest and the activity of recreational anglers. The outcomes of this research project will begin to address these possible interactions and may be used in future fisheries management models to determine healthy ecosystems.

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