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Predicting the distribution of a Portunid crab in Patagonian coastal waters: an SDM approach

Paula de la Barra*, Guillermo Svendsen, M. Alejandra Romero, M. Soledad Avaca, Maite Narvarte

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ovalipes trimaculatus is a cosmopolitan Portunid crab that is commercially important. However, environmental conditions that drive its distribution have never been studied. Thus, we aimed to assess the habitat preferences of the species in northern Patagonia by developing a species distribution model. We obtained spatial quantitative data of the crab and its prey species from a benthic survey performed prior to commercial fishing in the area. We used measurements of environment condition, biomass, richness and evenness of its prey as predictors, and modeled the density of O. trimaculatus through a delta-gamma model and produced a map of its predicted biomass. Prey biomass, depth and substrate type were the most important variables for predicting O. trimaculatus’ distribution. The model predicts a restricted depth range, with maximum crab density at 10 m (the shallowest depth sampled) in bottom substrates of relatively fine granulometry, as silty sand and silt. Prey biomass does not determine the crab presence, but, where the crab is present, higher prey biomass correlates with higher crab abundance. Our results accurately predicted one of the two actual fishing grounds, hence, the model may be a useful tool for local fishers and managers.