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Mangroves and seagrasses are key nurseries in coastal habitats

Comprehensive analysis suggests that mangroves and seagrasses provide the greatest value as 'nurseries' for young fishes and invertebrates, providing key guidance for managers of threatened marine resources. Findings will help resource managers with difficult conservation decisions.

A comprehensive analysis of more than 11,000 previous coastal-habitat measurements suggests that mangroves and seagrasses provide the greatest value as "nurseries" for young fishes and invertebrates, providing key guidance for managers of threatened marine resources.

Published today in Conservation Letters, the analysis began as a class project at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Lead author Jonathan Lefcheck, now a coordinating scientist with the Smithsonian's Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, says "Our results confirm the nursery function of a range of structured habitats, which supports their conservation, restoration, and management at a time when our coastal environments are increasingly impacted by human activities."

In addition to mangroves and seagrasses, "structured" marine habitats include marshes, coral and oyster reefs, and patches of rock or rubble. Scientists have long considered these habitats better nursery grounds than flat stretches of seafloor sand or mud because of their many elevated nooks and crannies; the team's analysis was designed to test this idea and determine the relative value of different structured habitats for juveniles of marine species.

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