Ecological Effects of Marsh Erosion on Benthic Communities at Pasture Point, Indian River Bay, DE

Huckins, Gail
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University of Delaware
Marsh erosion is an important natural process of sediment transport that can have detrimental effects on both human interests and the ecology of salt marshes, especially when exacerbated by human action. Thus, the quantitative measurement of erosion and study of nearby and unique benthic communities can help researchers understand the impact of erosion on these communities. The Pasture Point marsh in Indian River Bay, DE was studied for erosion and for the abundances of benthic fauna on the nearby marsh blocks. The rate of erosion did not differ significantly between the Eastern sides of the marsh or between the near and far ends presumably because of similar wave action around of the marsh. The benthic community on the Eastern marsh blocks was dominated by Geukensia demissa, while the Western marsh blocks were dominated by species of amphipods. In these communities, both differed from the types of benthic fauna that typically dominate Indian River Bay. Thus, this benthic community is a new type of habitat in Indian River Bay that increases the diversity of the bay. Also, the benthic communities’ abundance and composition was not clearly related to erosion rate, which indicates that the sedimentation from the erosion does not adversely affect the communities to the extent hypothesized.