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Modeling Potential Impacts of Beach Replenishment on Horseshoe Crab Nesting Habitat Suitability

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Beach replenishment has been proposed to increase nesting habitat for horseshoe crabs, but its environmental consequences may compromise the egg development and viability of this declining species. Horseshoe crab habitat requirements were used to build a habitat suitability model in STELLA to predict the potential impacts of beach replenishment on horseshoe crab eggs. A habitat suitability index (H.S.I.) comprised of six variables (dissolved oxygen, sediment grain size, sand temperature, sand moisture, wave energy, and salinity) was developed and compared between replenished and natural beaches. Sediment grain size and dissolved oxygen were higher in the natural beach, whereas sand temperature and moisture were higher in the replenished beach, resulting in significantly higher suitability of the natural beach ( p = 5.39 × 10 −15 , df = 30). The model was most sensitive to air temperature, rainfall, tide, and sediment grain size. This model is useful for understanding the processes affecting horseshoe crabs and predicting impacts of coastal management activities on habitat suitability. Based on the results of this model, beach replenishment is not recommended for increasing or improving horseshoe crab habitat, unless care is taken to match fill sediment to natural grain size and color.

Keywords: beach replenishment; habitat; horseshoe crabs; model; nourishment

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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