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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 262:241-252 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps262241

Settlement and distribution of Age-0 juvenile cod, Gadus morhua and G. ogac, following a large-scale habitat manipulation

B. J. Laurel1,*, R. S. Gregory2, J. A. Brown1

1Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John¹s, Newfoundland, A1C 5S7, Canada
2Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Science Branch, PO Box 5667, St. John¹s, Newfoundland, A1C 5X1, Canada

ABSTRACT: In Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, we monitored patterns of settlement and distribution of 2 species of gadids, Atlantic cod Gadus morhua and Greenland cod G. ogac, following a large-scale alteration of nearshore eelgrass Zostera marina habitat. Comparisons between control and experimental sites, based on bi-weekly sampling from 1995 to 2001, indicated a significant increase in cod abundance at sites enhanced with simulated eelgrass and a corresponding decrease in cod numbers at sites where eelgrass had been removed. These data supported predictions, demonstrating that: (1) there was a sufficient supply of juvenile cod within the areas that have historically been unoccupied (i.e. sand) and (2) both species preferred to settle in complex habitats. However, G. ogac responded significantly to the removal of eelgrass in more comparisons than G. morhua (70 and 37% respectively), suggesting that G. ogac has a higher affinity for complex vegetative habitats than G. morhua at the scale of manipulation (ca. 800 m2). Furthermore, despite an overall preference for eelgrass habitat, high within-site catch variation of post-settled juvenile cod indicated that both species were not restricted to a seine site. Such variation was occurring well after the settlement period, suggesting that juvenile cod were moving and occasionally aggregating (i.e. shoaling) throughout the study period. Our results support previously described associations between juvenile cod and eelgrass, but contradict other published accounts of high site-attachment and restricted movement in G. morhua following settlement.

KEY WORDS: Eelgrass · Habitat selection · Atlantic cod · Greenland cod · Habitat enhancement · BACI design

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