Cross-habitat access modifies the ‘trophic relay’ in New England saltmarsh ecosystems Article

Lesser, JS, Floyd, O, Fedors, K et al. (2021). Cross-habitat access modifies the ‘trophic relay’ in New England saltmarsh ecosystems . 29 10.1016/j.fooweb.2021.e00206

cited authors

  • Lesser, JS; Floyd, O; Fedors, K; Deegan, LA; Johnson, DS; Nelson, JA



  • In New England saltmarshes, mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) connect the vegetated marsh and creek food webs by opportunistically foraging on the invertebrate communities of the marsh surface when access is permitted by tidal flooding and marsh-edge geomorphology. Via their movements, mummichog represent a critical food web node, as they can potentially transport energy from the marsh surface food web to creek food web and exert top-down control on the communities of the vegetated marsh surface. Here, we demonstrate that access to the marsh surface (afforded by marsh-edge geomorphology) did not impact mummichog distribution across the marsh platform and exhibited no evidence of top-down control on their invertebrate prey. Thus, mummichogs function as initial nodes in the trophic relay, unidirectionally moving energy from the vegetated marsh to the creek food web. Reduced marsh surface access via altered marsh-edge geomorphology results in a 50% to 66% reduction in total energy available to aquatic predators via this route. Estuarine systems are intimately connected to coastal and offshore systems via consumer mediated flows of energy; thus, disruptions to the trophic relay from the marsh surface at the tidal creek scale can have far reaching impacts on secondary productivity in multiple disparate systems and must be accounted for in considerations of impacts to future food-web function.

publication date

  • December 1, 2021

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • 29