Effects of shoreline armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fish: opportunities for habitat improvement

Munsch, Stuart H., Cordell, Jeffery R., and Toft, Jason D. (2017) Effects of shoreline armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fish: opportunities for habitat improvement. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (5). pp. 1373-1384.

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Abstract

Nearshore ecosystems are increasingly recognized as critical habitats for fish of cultural, ecological and economic significance. These ecosystems are often densely inhabited by juvenile fish, highly productive and refuges from predation, leading ecologists to characterize them as nurseries. However, nearshore ecosystems are being transformed globally to support demands of growing coastal populations. Many shorelines are modified by armouring (e.g. seawalls, riprap) that minimizes erosion, and overwater structures (e.g. piers, docks) that facilitate waterfront use. These modifications affect the ecology of nearshore systems by restructuring, eliminating and shading shallow waters. Here, we review literature examining effects of armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fishes, and discuss how research and management can coordinate to minimize negative effects. Along armoured shorelines, fish assemblages differed from unarmoured sites, fish consumed less epibenthic and terrestrial prey, beach spawning was less successful and fish were larger. Under large overwater structures, visually oriented fish were less abundant and they fed less. Shade from overwater structures also interrupted localized movements of migratory fish. Thus, shoreline modifications impaired habitats by limiting feeding, reproduction, ontogenetic habitat shifts from shallow to deeper waters and connectivity. Research suggests that restoring shallow waters and substrate complexity, and minimizing shading underneath overwater structures, can rehabilitate habitats compromised by shoreline modifications. Synthesis and applications. Shoreline armouring and overwater structures often compromis e fish habitats. These threats to nearshore fish habitats will become more severe as growing coastal populations and rising sea levels increase demands for shoreline infrastructure. Our ability to assess and rehabilitate nearshore fish habitats along modified shorelines will be enhanced by: focusing research attention on metrics that directly indicate fish habitat quality; implementing and evaluating shoreline features that repair compromised habitat functions within human-use constraints; collating natural history knowledge of nearshore ecosystems; and embracing the socio-ecological nature of habitat improvements by educating the public about conservation efforts and fostering appreciation of local nearshore ecosystems. Actions to reduce impacts of shoreline modifications on fish are particularly feasible when they align with societal goals, such as improving flood protection and providing spaces that facilitate recreation, education, and connections between people and nature.

Item ID: 53920
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2664
Keywords: coastal squeeze; fish nurseries; habitat evaluation; nearshore ecology; overwater structures; piers; riprap; seawalls; shoreline armouring; urban planning
Funders: National Science Foundation, USA (NSF)
Projects and Grants: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 03:52
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 80%
12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1299 Other Built Environment and Design > 129999 Built Environment and Design not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 100%
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