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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 303:269-282 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps303269

Identifying sandeel Ammodytes marinus sediment habitat preferences in the marine environment

Gayle J. Holland*, Simon P. R. Greenstreet, Iain M. Gibb, Helen M. Fraser, Michael R. Robertson

Fisheries Research Services, Marine Laboratory, PO Box 101, Victoria Road, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK

ABSTRACT: Sandeel abundance and sediment particle size data from 2886 grab samples collected during 14 surveys undertaken in the Wee Bankie/Marr Bank region of the north-western North Sea between 1998 and 2003 are analysed. Odds Ratio, an analysis that compares the proportion of all samples assigned to a particular sediment category, with the proportion of samples containing sandeels assigned to the same category, reveals clear patterns of either selection for, or avoidance of, seabed habitats containing varying proportions of 8 sediment particle size categories. As the proportion of Coarse Gravel, Fine Gravel, Fine Sand, Coarse Silt, Medium Silt and Fine Silt in the seabed habitat increases, sandeels show reduced selection for and increased avoidance of the habitat. Conversely, as the proportion of Coarse Sand and Medium Sand in the sediment increases, sandeels show reduced avoidance of and increased selection for the habitat. Classification Tree and Principal Components Analysis define 8 types of seabed habitat on the basis of their sediment particle size composition that vary in sandeel occupancy rate, sandeel density and the size of sandeels that occupy the habitat. Variation in sandeel density across these 8 habitat types is primarily influenced by the silt content in the sediment. Variation in the size of sandeels occupying each habitat type is mainly dictated by the coarseness of the sediment. The value of such results for the design of grab surveys intended to monitor variation in local sandeel abundance is discussed.

KEY WORDS: Ammodytes marinus · Sandeel · Habitat preference · Sediment particle size

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