Terracing is a relatively new wetland-restoration technique used to convert shallow subtidal bottom to marsh. This method uses existing bottom sediments to form terraces or ridges at marsh elevation. A terrace field is constructed by arranging these ridges in some pattern that maximizes intertidal edge and minimizes fetch between ridges; the intertidal area is planted with marsh vegetation. We examined the habitat value of terracing for fishery species at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana (USA) in spring and fall 1999 by quantifying and comparing nekton densities in a 9-yr-old terrace field and nearby reference area using a 1-m2 drop sampler. Decapod crustaceans were more abundant than fishes, composing 62% and 95% of all organisms we collected in spring and fall, respectively. White shrimp Litopenaeus setiferus, daggerblade grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio, blue crab Callinectes sapidus, and brown shrimp Farfantepenaeus aztecus accounted for 94% of all crustaceans, whereas 60% of all fishes were gulf menhaden Brevoortia patronus. Mean densities of white shrimp (fall), daggerblade grass shrimp, blue crab, and brown shrimp (spring) were significantly greater in terrace marsh than on non-vegetated bottom in the reference pond. Densities of most nekton on non-vegetated bottom were similar in the terrace field and the reference pond, but gulf menhaden and white shrimp had higher densities at terrace pond sites and brown shrimp (spring) were more abundant at reference pond sites. The pattern for biomass was similar to that for density in that the mean biomass of most species was significantly greater at terrace marsh sites than reference pond sites and similar at terrace and reference pond sites. Terrace marsh, however, was not functionally equivalent to natural marsh, as mean densities of daggerblade grass shrimp (fall), brown shrimp (spring), and blue crab and mean biomass of white shrimp (fall), striped mullet Mugil cephalus (spring), and spotted seatrout Cynoscion nebulosus (fall) were greater at reference marsh sites than terrace marsh sites. Using these density and biomass patterns and the percentage of marsh and pond area in the terrace field, we concluded that terrace fields support higher standing crops of most fishery species compared with shallow marsh ponds of similar size. Future restoration projects could include design changes to increase the proportion of marsh in a terrace field and enhance the habitat value of marsh terraces for fishery species.
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Vol. 21 • No. 3