Title page for ETD etd-04082010-094612

Type of Document Dissertation
Author de Mutsert, Kim
Author's Email Address kdemut1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-04082010-094612
Title The Effects of a Freshwater Diversion on Nekton Species Biomass Distributions, Food Web Pathways, and Community Structure in a Louisiana Estuary
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Oceanography & Coastal Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cowan, James Howard Jr Committee Chair
Day, John W Jr Committee Member
Fleeger, John W Committee Member
Trexler, Joel C Committee Member
Twilley, Robert R Committee Member
Stouffer, Philip C Dean's Representative
  • modeling
  • Ecopath with Ecosim
  • salinity
  • Caernarvon
  • trophic diversity
  • restoration
  • penaeid shrimp
  • spotted seatrout
  • ecosystem
  • isotopes
  • BACI design
  • mean trophic level index
  • coastal Louisiana
  • fisheries
  • wetland ecology
Date of Defense 2010-03-25
Availability unrestricted
A current method to restore Louisiana’s estuaries includes reintroducing freshwater and sediments to wetlands that are hydrologically isolated from the Mississippi River due to the construction of levees. In this dissertation, I examined effects of the second largest freshwater diversion in Louisiana, the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion (CFD), on estuarine nekton in Breton Sound. Before focusing on Breton Sound, I examined the status of nekton communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM), and Louisiana wetlands in particular, using the mean trophic level index (MTLI). I demonstrated that commercial targeting caused the previously reported low and declining MTLI from the GOM. Evaluation of Breton Sound alone showed an increasing MTLI, which is possibly a positive effect of hydrological restoration. With a Before-After-Control-Impact study, I demonstrated that nekton species biomass distributions (SBD) changed significantly after the opening of the CFD in 1991. The biomass of selected economically or ecologically important species showed an increase relative to the control (Micropterus salmoides, Micropogonias undulatus, Brevoortia patronus, Farfantepenaeus aztecus and Litopenaeus setiferus), one was not affected (Cynoscion nebulosus). In addition, nekton species richness, abundance and the proportion of smaller individuals increased, indicating increased nursery function. I identified salinity as the main environmental variable separating SBDs among study sites due to freshwater inflow, although seasonal variation had the greatest effect on SBD. The CFD did not change dissolved oxygen or turbidity to the extent that it had an effect on nekton in the areas examined. Applying stable isotope techniques, I identified a positive effect of freshwater inflow on trophic diversity and niche breath of the consumer community, and on the relative contribution of particulate organic matter in the food web, resulting in energy density increases in nekton species. Finally, I created an ecosystem model of Breton Sound, which I used to simulate changes in SBD under different salinity scenarios. This model can be used to evaluate future restoration projects. These various analyses, including the model predictions, revealed only neutral or positive effects of the CFD as currently operated on nekton communities in Breton Sound.
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