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Retention mechanisms of white perch (Morone americana) and striped bass (Morone saxatilis) early-life stages in an estuarine turbidity maximum: an integrative fixed-location and mapping approach

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The small-scale distribution and retention mechanisms of white perch (Morone americana) and striped bass (M. saxatilis) early-life stages were investigated in the upper Chesapeake Bay estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM). Physical measurements and biological collections were made at fixed-location stations within the ETM during three research cruises in 1998 and two in 1999. Results were compared with mapping surveys of physical properties and organism distributions above, within, and below the ETM. Physical conditions at the fixed stations differed markedly among cruises and between years due to differences in freshwater flow and wind. In each year, striped bass and white perch larval concentrations were highest in waters of salinity 1–4. Larvae were more abundant in the ETM region in 1998, a high-flow year, suggesting that the ETM provides favorable nursery habitat when low salinity waters and the ETM coincide in high freshwater-flow conditions. In 1998, the earliest pelagic life stages of fish larvae (eggs, yolk-sac larvae) and the copepod Eurytemora affinis, an important prey of feeding larvae, apparently were retained in deep, landward-flowing water within the salt front and ETM region. Statistical analyses indicated that distributions of white perch and striped bass post-yolk-sac larvae were associated with E. affinis distributions and suggested that retention of larval fish could result from tracking prey. Comparing fixed-station and mapping approaches demonstrates the importance of sampling at different spatial scales within the ETM region and suggests that larvae are faced with trade-offs between selecting zones of high retention or high visual-feeding success.

Keywords: Chesapeake Bay; estuarine transition zone; estuarine turbidity maximum; larval retention; physical-biological interactions; zooplankton

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, PO Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, USA

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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