Elucidating Dietary Source and Structure of Three Important Juvenile Fishery Species Across the Chesapeake Bay Mouth Plume Using Bulk Stable Isotope Analyses

Principal Investigator:

Matthew Stefanak

Start/End Year:

2022 - 2023


Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Strategic focus area:

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture


The Chesapeake Bay mouth plume is an important yet understudied system that transports large amounts of nutrients and organic matter to the continental shelf. The role of this dynamic plume in structing the population and diet of juvenile fish species that migrate through and (or) reside in this ecotone for at least part of their juvenile stage is largely unknown. In this project, my objectives are to utilize bulk stable isotope carbon and nitrogen measurements from basal, benthic invertebrate, and three juvenile fish species (Anchoa mitchilli, Leiostomus xanthurus, and Paralichthys dentatus) to 1) determine the sources of production in the plume system (i.e., labile versus refractory and marine versus estuarine), and 2) to decipher spatiotemporal trends in production source across the plume gradient using these techniques. The results of this study are anticipated to elucidate the degree to which juvenile fish are reliant on plume production during this crucial life cycle stage. The outcomes will have direct implications for fishery management and modeling of these three highly important yet threatened fishery species.

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