An assessment of tidal restoration projects on the spatial ecology of economcailly important fish species from the bahamas

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Habitat fragmentation is a threat to global biodiversity and ecosystem function. The fragmenting of aquatic ecosystems by dams or roadways has lasting consequences to habitat quality and impedes the movement of aquatic organisms. In The Bahamas, up to 80% of mangrove-lined tidal creeks have been fragmented by roadways to the point of limited or no hydrologic connectivity, resulting in changes to floral and faunal communities, a decrease in species richness, and a reduction in secondary production of fishes. Despite global initiatives to restore hydrologic connectivity to tide-influenced mangrove systems, remediation techniques are not always successful.

In the Bahamas, fragmenting roadways were historically constructed of backfilled rock to create foot or vehicle access across shallow tidal systems. Recently, large-scale developments such as megaresorts, marinas, and cruise ship ports threaten connectivity in these ecosystems. The preferred and most cost-effective means for restoring hydrologic connectivity to such sites is through the installation of small (0.6-1.0 m diameter) culverts. Although culverts can increase species richness and secondary production in some creeks, when compared to alternative restoration practices (e.g., bridge construction), culverts fail to reestablish fish assemblages similar to those found in historically undisturbed tidal creeks.

Here, we will implement remote methods to identify the passage of bonefish, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, and stingrays through culverts and bridges of varying size and construction in The Bahamas. 

This project is in collaboration with the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, Illinois Natural History Survey and Monmouth University. 

Updates on this project can be found here and on our Instagram Page. Please contact us through our website for further information!