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Welcome to the technical sessions schedule for the 2015 SEAFWA Annual Meeting.

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Monday, November 2 • 1:20pm - 1:40pm
Changes in Coastal Salinities will Affect Seed Availability for Waterfowl in Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Beds and Coastal Marshes in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Kristin Elise DeMarco, Eva R. Hillmann –Louisiana State University Agricultural Center; Mike Brasher, Ducks Unlimited, Gulf Coast Joint Venture, National Wetlands Research Center; Megan La Peyre, U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center

As coastal ecosystems are increasingly exposed to the effects of sea-level rise (SLR), habitats will undergo community and species-level changes. Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds are prevalent in shallow water environments and will be some of the first impacted by SLR. In the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) wintering waterfowl are closely linked to SAV as their seeds, rhizomes, and leafy material are valuable food resources. Accordingly, their abundance and composition influence the carrying capacity of coastal marshes for waterfowl. Despite the documented importance of SAV within coastal ecosystems, and specifically to waterfowl, little is known about their distribution across salinity zones or the potential impacts of SLR on their abundance. We estimated SAV cover and seed biomass in coastal marshes from Texas to Alabama in summer 2013 to determine patterns and relationships to salinity zone, water depth and geographic location. We found significant differences in total seed biomass (SAV, emergent vegetation, woody species) among salinity zones; seed biomass was greatest in fresh and brackish marshes, exceeding the potential “giving-up threshold” for waterfowl of 5 g m-2. Although mean total cover of SAV was similar across salinity zones, mean SAV seed biomass was highest in fresh marsh. As local SLR models predict altered salinities along the nGoM, these findings suggest concurrent changes in spatial distribution and abundance of seed resources for waterfowl. Understanding variation in seed and SAV resources across salinity zones is critical to predict and manage for potential changes in coastal ecosystems in response to climate change.

Monday November 2, 2015 1:20pm - 1:40pm EST
Ballroom Salon B

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