A Modeling and Field Approach to Identify Essential Fish Habitat for Juvenile Bay Whiff (Citharichthys spilopterus) and Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) Within the Aransas Bay Complex, TX
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- Froeschke, B.F., Stunz, G.W., Robillard, M.M.R. et al. Estuaries and Coasts (2013) 36: 881. doi:10.1007/s12237-013-9600-9
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The goal of this study was to use an ecosystem-based approach to consider the effect of environmental conditions on the distribution and abundance of juvenile bay whiff and southern flounder within the Aransas Bay Complex, TX, USA. Species habitat models for both species were developed using boosted regression trees. Juvenile bay whiff were associated with low temperatures (<15 °C, 20–23 °C), moderate percent dry weight of sediments (25–60 %), salinity >10, and moderate to high dissolved oxygen (6–9 mg O2/l, 10–14 mg/l). Juvenile southern flounder were associated with low temperatures (<15 °C), low percent dry weight of sediment (<25 %), seagrass habitat, shallow depths (<1.2 m), and high dissolved oxygen (>8 mg O2/l). Our results indicate that conservation measures should focus along the eastern side of Aransas Bay and the north corner of Copano Bay to protect essential fish habitat. These findings provide a valuable new tool for fisheries managers to aid in the sustainable management of bay whiff and southern flounder and provide crucial information needed to prioritize areas for habitat conservation.