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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 377:263-277 (2009)  -  DOI:

Abiotic and biotic factors influence the habitat use of an estuarine fish

Nathan M. Bacheler1,4,*, Lee M. Paramore2, Jeffrey A. Buckel1, Joseph E. Hightower3

1Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University,
303 College Circle Drive, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
2North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, PO Box 539, 604 Harbor Road, Wanchese, North Carolina 27981, USA
3United States Geological Survey, North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA
4Present address: College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, 104 COAS Administration Building, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

ABSTRACT: For migratory fishes that occupy multiple habitats, surveys conducted at different scales may be required to assess habitat use. We used generalized additive models (GAMs) to relate water quality, microhabitat, geographic, and temporal factors to catches of 2 age classes of subadult red drum Sciaenops ocellatus from a 6 yr fishery-independent gill net survey in North Carolina, USA. Age-1 and age-2 red drum were most often caught in shallow, nearshore waters; in some regions, both showed a preference for seagrass. Age-1 red drum were primarily captured at 2 different salinity ranges (0 to 5 and 20 to 30 psu), while age-2 red drum abundance was not related to salinity. A smaller-scale analysis of 36 telemetered age-2 red drum in a small tributary of the Neuse River showed a negative response to salinity, a positive response to dissolved oxygen, a dome-shaped response to prey evenness, and a positive response to total prey. Although subadult red drum can tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions, our research suggests that they associate with both abiotic and biotic factors in very specific ways. Habitat use patterns of subadult red drum were age-, scale-, and sometimes region-dependent, highlighting the need for examining habitat use patterns of estuarine organisms at multiple life history stages and scales if generalities about how species respond to abiotic and biotic factors are sought.

KEY WORDS: Habitat use · Spatial distribution · Telemetry · Sciaenops ocellatus · Scale

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Cite this article as: Bacheler NM, Paramore LM, Buckel JA, Hightower JE (2009) Abiotic and biotic factors influence the habitat use of an estuarine fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 377:263-277.

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