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MEPS 505:209-226 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10768

Effects of hypoxia on habitat quality of pelagic planktivorous fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Hongyan Zhang1,*, Doran M. Mason2, Craig A. Stow2, Aaron T. Adamack3, Stephen B. Brandt4, Xinsheng Zhang5, David G. Kimmel6, Michael R. Roman7, William C. Boicourt7, Stuart A. Ludsin

1Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108, USA
2NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108, USA
3Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia
4Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA
5NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC/SFD, Panama City, Florida 32408, USA
6Department of Biology/Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
7Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA
8Aquatic Ecology Laboratory, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43212, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: To evaluate the impact of hypoxia (<2 mg O2 l-1) on habitat quality of pelagic prey fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico, we used a spatially explicit, bioenergetics-based growth rate potential (GRP) model to develop indices of habitat quality. Our focus was on the pelagic bay anchovy Anchoa mitchilli and Gulf menhaden Brevoortia patronus. Positive GRP was considered high-quality habitat (HQH) and negative GRP was considered low-quality habitat (LQH). Models used water temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), zooplankton biomass, and phytoplankton concentration collected during the peak periods of hypoxia in 2003, 2004, and 2006 to estimate fish GRP. Results showed that hypoxic areas were always LQH. However, with respect to the entire water column, hypoxia had only a minor impact on overall habitat quality, with habitat quality being driven primarily by prey availability followed by water temperature. These results are in contrast to other ecosystems, such as the Chesapeake Bay, where hypoxia affects a larger fraction of the water column than in the Gulf of Mexico and has a significant impact on overall habitat quality. Differences in the effect of hypoxia on habitat quality between these 2 ecosystems suggest that the vertical extent of hypoxia relative to water column depth (i.e. hypoxic volume) is a fundamental consideration when evaluating the impacts of hypoxia on pelagic fish production.


KEY WORDS: Dead zone · Habitat suitability · Eutrophication · Food web · Non-point source pollution


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Cite this article as: Zhang H, Mason DM, Stow CA, Adamack AT and others (2014) Effects of hypoxia on habitat quality of pelagic planktivorous fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 505:209-226. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10768

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