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Abt Develops Tools To Aid Habitat Restoration and Protection Efforts in the Gulf of Mexico


  • Stakeholders need a comprehensive understanding of fish and crustacean use of estuarine habitats.
  • Abt built on our Deepwater Horizon work, including expanding a database and conducting meta-analyses.
  • The database and guidebook will help stakeholders manage restoration and protection efforts.
The Challenge

Estuarine habitats in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM)—including marshes, oyster reefs and sea grass beds—are critical for many ecologically and economically important fish and crustacean species. However, many of these estuarine habitats are experiencing extensive land loss and degradation. To combat this, restoration and protection efforts continue to be a priority in the northern GOM. As a result, there’s a need for a comprehensive understanding of faunal use of these key habitats to help natural resource managers and restoration practitioners plan, implement and monitor efforts in the decades to come.

The Approach

Building off of our work for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we updated and expanded our already-comprehensive database with information on fish and crustacean use of estuarine habitats in the northern GOM. We designed a rigorous, meta-analytical approach to aggregate densities of shallow-water fish and crustaceans from different studies. We evaluated the influence of water quality and other key site factors that could influence the distribution and abundance of fish and crustacean species. We also examined the recovery of ecological structure and function through marsh restoration efforts in the northern GOM by comparing data from restored sites to reference sites.

The Results

Abt is finalizing the database with information on fish and crustacean use of estuarine habitats. We’re also developing a guidebook that synthesizes how species use varies spatially, temporally, by site conditions and following restoration efforts.

This improved understanding of coastal fish and crustacean communities can inform and support the restoration, protection and management of these important resources and the habitats they depend on. Resource managers and restoration practitioners will be better able to:

  1. Communicate expected benefits of restoration and protection projects.
  2. Set conservation and restoration goals.
  3. Identify important components of the project to monitor.
  4. Determine if projects are on-track for success or need corrective action.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Injury Assessment and Restoration Plan
Understanding Nekton Use of Estuarine Habitats in the Northern Gulf of Mexico