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Demographic and Trophic Analysis of Adult Grass Shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio) from Living Shoreline and Natural Tidal Marshes in the Chesapeake Bay

Ansley J. Levine1,*, Elise M. Turrietta1, Donna M. Bilkovic2, and Randolph M. Chambers1

1Keck Environmental Lab, William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187. 2Center for Coastal Resources Management, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, William & Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 29, Issue 2 (2022): 207–228

With extensive and ongoing human development in coastal areas, effective shoreline-protection strategies against erosion and rising sea level that also provide natural ecosystem services will become increasingly important. Constructed living shoreline marshes can serve as successful management solutions when implemented correctly, but studies comparing these created estuarine habitats to their natural marsh counterparts are needed to assess their ecological functionality. We compared adult Palaemonetes pugio (Daggerblade Grass Shrimp) population demographics and diets from 13 pairs of living shoreline and natural marsh sites in the southwestern portion of the Chesapeake Bay. No significant differences were observed in demographics including abundance, weight, length, number of gravid females, and egg abundance and quality. Gut-content analysis detected significantly more terrestrial debris in shrimp from living shorelines, but the omnivorous dietary needs appeared met in all marsh sites. Overall, shrimp populations differed more among site pairs from different shorescape settings than between created and natural marshes from the same settings, suggesting that living shorelines are approaching ecosystem functionality similar to natural marsh habitats. However, the observed negative effect of agricultural land use on shrimp abundance and the discovery of microplastics in gut contents from all sites sampled indicate the need for further consideration of human impacts in both constructed and natural coastal habitats.

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