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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 608:199-219 (2019)  -  DOI:

Habitat suitability for oil and gas platform-associated fishes in Louisiana’s nearshore waters

Ryan T. Munnelly1,4,*, David B. Reeves1, Edward J. Chesney2, Donald M. Baltz1, Brian D. Marx3

1Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Energy, Coast & Environment Building, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA
2Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, 8124 Hwy 56, Chauvin, Louisiana 70344, USA
3Department of Experimental Statistics, Louisiana State University, M.D. Woodin Hall, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA
4Present address: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8th Avenue Southeast, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: River discharge and seasonal, eutrophication-driven hypoxia within coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico create a wide range of environmental conditions for fishes. Environmental conditions are most dynamic on the Louisiana shelf, a region in which oil and gas platforms (hereafter platforms) are abundant and serve as artificial reefs. Platforms provide a unique, vertically oriented substrate for fouling organisms and nekton throughout the water column and often span substantial gradients of salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), and water clarity. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, we used paired video and hydrographic samples taken at 150 small platforms sited in nearshore waters (3.7-18.0 m water depth) to document the responses of platform-associated fishes to coastal water quality. Responses of the 26 analyzed fish species included substantial changes in habitat selection coupled with vertical habitat compression. The vertical extent of the water column suitable for fishes was compressed due to avoidance of hypoxic bottom water (DO <50% saturation) and apparent avoidance of eutrophic surface strata with supersaturated oxygen conditions (140.7 ± 7.0% saturation [95% CI]). Generalized linear mixed models, habitat suitability indices, and factor analysis suggested that fish habitat-selection patterns varied significantly in the presence of hypoxia by up to 10 salinity units, 10°C, 30% DO saturation, 6 m water depth, and 4.5 m Secchi depth. The differences in intraspecific distributions occurring in the presence and absence of hypoxia were often greater than interspecies separations within comparisons. These findings demonstrate an important indirect effect of eutrophication-driven hypoxia on fishes.

KEY WORDS: Hypoxia · Habitat compression · Eutrophication · River-influenced ocean margins · Physicochemical fish responses · Artificial reefs

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Cite this article as: Munnelly RT, Reeves DB, Chesney EJ, Baltz DM, Marx BD (2019) Habitat suitability for oil and gas platform-associated fishes in Louisiana’s nearshore waters. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 608:199-219.

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