On the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in northern Florida, designated sites serve as common access points for boating, fishing and similar recreational activities. I investigated the hypothesis that these sites are foci for disturbance gradients, changing the physical properties of the sediment and the species composition of subsurface predators, deposit feeders and suspension feeders. I established transects along no-wake zones, full-speed areas and inaccessible backwaters of the ICW, extracted infauna from sediment cores, and assessed the turbidity, porosity and organic carbon concentration of the substrate. At one location, the proportion of suspension feeders increased relative to predators and deposit feeders as distance from a small fishing beach increased. In general, the abundance of suspension feeders significantly increased with greater distance from a focus of disturbance. Understanding how soft-bottom communities respond to human activities such as recreation has practical applications in risk assessment, selection of sites for future development, and conservation of sensitive coastal communities.
Nicaela Haig, ’14
Sponsor: S. Andrew McCollum