Marshes to mangroves: examining growth and patterns of habitat use by penaeid shrimp in a changing marsh landscape to inform stock assessments

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Doerr

Co-Principal Investigators: Thomas Minello, Lawrence Rozas, Rick Hart

External Collaborators: James Nelson

Black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) are expanding into northern Gulf of Mexico marshes that have historically been dominated by smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). This expansion has been facilitated by milder winters, increased water temperature, and drought-induced dieback of S. alterniflora. Each of these drivers are linked to climate change; thus, expansion of A. germinans in the region is predicted to continue. Since S. alterniflora-dominated wetlands in the northern Gulf of Mexico, particularly those in Texas and Louisiana, are critical nursery areas for both white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus) and brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus), conversion of S. alterniflora habitat to A. germinans habitat may alter estuarine production of penaeid shrimp.


The linkages between habitats and fishery production are complex, and nekton utilization of intertidal mangrove habitats in the Gulf of Mexico has only recently been investigated. The objective of this project is to determine whether habitat shifts in estuarine systems will affect the productivity supporting a sustainable shrimp fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. The first field sampling trip was completed in August 2016 near Port Fourchon, LA, where we collected a total of 80 drop samples and 480 benthic cores. The drop samples will be processed and the data analyzed to compare densities of penaeid shrimp and other nekton between mangrove and marsh habitat types.

This project is also examining the ecological contribution of these changing aquatic ecosystems by evaluating growth responses of both brown shrimp and white shrimp via RNA:DNA analysis and by constructing habitat-specific food webs using stable isotope analysis. The benthic cores will be processed to determine if differences in benthic infaunal communities exist between the habitat types, and to estimate the percent contribution of potential prey items to each shrimp species. The second field sampling trip will take place in April-May 2017 to coincide with the peak recruitment period for brown shrimp.



Project #


InPort ID#




Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC)


Publications & Presentations

Media & Other Products