Quantifying Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) Dependence on Saltmarsh-Derived Productivity Using Stable Isotope Analysis
Each winter, populations of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) migrate north from the coastal mid-Atlantic region of the US to the coastal waters of New England. During this migration, striped bass spend significant time in estuaries and saltmarshes, presumably to forage. However, the extent to which saltmarsh productivity supports striped bass remains unresolved. We used a three-isotope Bayesian mixing model to determine the relative contribution of three primary producers [C4 saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina spp.), phytoplankton, and benthic diatoms] to striped bass tissue. Phytoplankton (51 % contribution) and Spartina-derived sources (44 % contribution) are the primary sources of production to striped bass, while benthic diatoms made a relatively small contribution (5 %). Our results highlight the importance of saltmarshes to striped bass by showing that primary producers unique to saltmarsh ecosystems support a large proportion of striped bass production.