Relative contributions of nearshore and wetland habitats to coastal food webs in the Great Lakes

Michael E. Sierszen, Lee S. Schoen, Jessica M. Kosiara, Joel C. Hoffman, Matthew J. Cooper, Donald G. Uzarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Hydrologic linkages among coastal wetland and nearshore areas allow coastal fish to move among the habitats, which has led to a variety of habitat use patterns. We determined nutritional support of coastal fishes from 12 wetland-nearshore habitat pairs using stable isotope analyses, which revealed differences among species and systems in multi-habitat use. Substantial (proportions > 0.30) nutrition often came from the habitat other than that in which fish were captured. Nearshore subsidies to coastal wetlands indicate wetlands are not exclusively exporters of energy and materials; rather, there is reciprocity in the mutual energetic support of nearshore and wetland food webs. Coastal wetland hydrogeomorphology influenced the amount of multi-habitat use by coastal fishes. Fishes from systems with relatively open interfaces between wetland and nearshore habitats exhibited less nutritional reliance on the habitat in which they were captured, and higher use of resources from the adjacent habitat. Comparisons of stable isotope analyses of nutrition with otolith analyses of occupancy indicated nutritional sources often corresponded with habitat occupancy; however, disparities among place of capture, otolith analyses, and nutritional analyses indicated differences in the types of support those analyses inform. Disparities between occupancy information and nutritional information can stem from movements for support functions other than foraging. Together, occupancy information from otolith microchemistry and nutritional information from stable isotope analyses provide complementary measures of the use of multiple habitats by mobile consumers. This work underscores the importance of protecting or restoring a diversity of coastal habitats and the hydrologic linkages among them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Coastal habitats
  • Food webs
  • Great Lakes
  • Otoliths
  • Stable isotopes


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