Anthony Donahue

San Francisco State University

“Larval Fish Diets as Indicators of Food Web Dynamics in Tidal Wetland Restoration”

The aim of this in progress research is to identify food web resources in close proximity to wetland restoration sites in the San Francisco Estuary, compare them with ecological indicators in wetlands at different stages of restoration (early, intermediate, mature), and identify zooplankton indicator species associated with beneficial habitat for larval Longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys). High-throughput sequencing (HTS) will be utilized to identify the diversity of prey available in the water column, including calanoid and cyclopoid copepods, multiple other species, and indicator species in diets of larval fishes, specifically Longfin smelt, Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), and Prickly sculpin (Cottus asper), which use wetlands as nursery grounds during the same time of year as longfin smelt. HTS will identify the DNA of prey consumed by the larval fishes, the ambient zooplankton species available to larval fishes, and identify indicator species at each wetland restoration site, which will ultimately benefit declining fish populations in the San Francisco Estuary.

ABSTRACT

Fish populations in the San Francisco Estuary have been declining for decades. Tidal wetlands are being restored to enhance fish populations by providing beneficial habitat and food web resources, such as increased zooplankton abundance. This research will identify food web resources within wetland restoration sites at different stages of restoration and identify zooplankton species associated with beneficial habitat for larval fishes. High-throughput DNA sequencing will identify the diversity of zooplankton prey available in the water column and in diets of larval fishes, specifically Longfin smelt, Pacific herring, and Prickly sculpin, which use wetlands as nursery grounds.
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