Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. M. Zachary Darnell

Committee Chair School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 2

Dr. Patrick D. Biber

Committee Member 2 School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 3

Dr. Kevin Dillon

Committee Member 3 School

Ocean Science and Engineering


Coastal marshes in the northern Gulf of Mexico provide essential habitat for various consumer species, however, land loss has severely degraded marsh habitat in this region. Few studies have examined restored black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) marshes, such as those found in Mississippi (MS), and how they affect faunal inhabitants.

Restoration of Juncus-dominated marshes on Deer Island, MS sought to reestablish ecological functions with the intention of supporting natural consumer assemblages. To test this, quadrat and minnow trap sampling were used to compare invertebrate and nekton abundance, species richness, and diversity of two restored marshes (5+ yrs and 15+ yrs) with a natural reference marsh (100+ yrs old). Stable isotope analysis was also used to compare basal carbon sources and trophic support between sites. Quadrat sampling showed invertebrate abundance did not reach natural levels in either restored site, but minnow trap sampling showed abundance and species richness at the younger 5+ yr site surpassed that of the natural marsh. A comparison of community assemblage and stable isotope analysis showed similarity between the 5+ yr restored site and the natural site. The 5+ yr site better resembled a natural marsh than the 15+ yr site in many ways, suggesting that certain ecological processes are recovering faster in the younger site.

Our assessment of consumer community structure, combined with previous studies evaluating environmental and vegetative characteristics provide a thorough assessment of restoration efforts on Deer Island, MS. It also gives insight into future Beneficial Use restoration projects on Juncus-dominated marshes in this area.