An Ecological Model of the Habitat Mosaic in Estuarine Nursery Areas: Part I-Interaction of Dispersal Theory and Habitat Variability in Describing Juvenile Fish Distributions

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Identification of critical habitat in estuarine nursery areas is an important conservation and management objective. Habitat can be viewed as a mosaic of both temporally variable environmental features and spatially variable structural features that combine to define optimal habitat. Effective models of juvenile distributions should account for individual movement, as well as the full suite of habitat variability including both spatial and temporal components. We have extended a terrestrial model of small-scale movement patterns to describe habitat choices of an index juvenile fish in an estuarine nursery system. Movement of small juvenile fishes was found to be influenced by both spatial and temporal patterns in habitat quality, and it was a balanced mix of both that resulted in an optimal distribution. Fishes that perceive habitat on a scale much smaller than the scale of spatial heterogeneity may respond to temporal change as a movement cue allowing for more deterministic outcomes at larger scales despite perceptual limitations. These model outcomes suggest a hierarchical approach is best for describing habitat choice in juvenile fishes and this approach will be used in the future to explore individual and population responses to predictable habitat change. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Ecological Modelling





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