Edge effects on abiotic conditions, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, and larval fishes in Great Lakes fringing marshes

M J Cooper, Donald G Uzarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fragmentation and edge creation is common in many freshwater coastal wetlands, though relatively little is known about edge effects on abiotic conditions and faunal communities within these habitats. We investigated edge effects associated with anthropogenic fragmentation in 16 fringing coastal marshes of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Environmental data, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, and larval fish were collected along transects extending into each marsh from reference (i.e., where the wetland naturally interfaced with open water) and anthropogenic edges (i.e., where the wetland interfaced with open water habitats created by vegetation removal). Physical and chemical gradients were apparent from marsh edges toward marsh interiors regardless of edge type. Faunal communities appeared to respond to these gradients. Zooplankton biomass, macroinvertebrate richness and macroinvertebrate Shannon diversity were depressed at edges and increased toward marsh interiors. Larval fish catch per unit effort, taxon richness, and Shannon diversity increased from reference edges toward marsh interiors. Larvae of individual fish species displayed varying patterns across edges. Our results suggest that because of edge effects, fragmentation of coastal marshes causes impacts that exceed the area of marsh habitat that is actually lost. For example, as a marsh's protected inner core area is reduced, the marsh fragment may cease to function as a viable refuge from hydrologic energy and open water predators. Therefore, fragmentation should be viewed as a significant impact to freshwater coastal marsh ecosystems similar to how it is regarded in terrestrial ecosystem management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-151
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
StatePublished - 2012


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