Watershed Habitats – Deeper, Open Waters
A Food Chain from bottom up
Put simply, as one organism eats another, a food chain is formed. At the bottom of the Bay food chain are the microscopic plants called phytoplankton that float in the water column and convert sunlight and nutrients into living tissue. They are eaten by copepods, members of the zooplankton community, which are eaten by small fish like bay anchovies, which are eaten by larger predators like striped bass, flounder, and bluefish, which are eaten by people and by osprey and herons.
The bottom of the food chain
The lower level organisms are critical to this web of life. For every pound of striped bass or bluefish, thousands of pounds of phytoplankton had to be produced. An ecosystem must be extremely productive to support the highest level of consumer like bluefish and humans.
The voracious predator, the Bluefish, arrive in our Inland Bays in the spring, coming in from the ocean in schools of adults and juveniles. In the summer and fall, the water will roil where the bluefish are feeding and small fish will leap from the water to escape the feeding frenzy of these strong swimmers and killers.
Destination for Migrating Wildfowl
Thousands of wintering ducks, particularly sea ducks like scoters, old squaw and mergansers, depend on the open waters of the bays for the for their winter diet of fish, shellfish and invertebrates.
What about Us?
The open waters of the Bays are great playgrounds for people…
What can we do to play gently on our Bays?
- Observe “no wake” zones to lessen erosion on our shores and marshes
- Stay in channels and don’t run aground to preserve fragile underwater grasses
- Use care to keep oil and gasoline out of the Bays
- Dispose of fishing line so that it doesn’t entangle birds
- Remove unused crab pots so they don’t become death traps for terrapins
- Volunteer and learn more about the Bays