Influence of teleost abundance on the distribution and abundance of sharks in Florida Bay, USA
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Understanding the factors that influence the distribution and abundance of predators, including sharks, is important for predicting the impacts of human changes to the environment. Such studies are particularly important in Florida Bay, USA where there are planned large-scale changes to patterns of freshwater input from the Everglades ecosystem. Studies of many marine predators suggest that links between predator and prey habitat use may vary with spatial scale, but there have been few studies of the role of prey distribution in shaping habitat use and abundance of sharks. We used longline catches of sharks and trawls for potential teleost prey to determine the influence of teleost abundance on shark abundance at the scale of regions and habitats in Florida Bay. We found that shark catch per unit effort (CPUE) was not linked to CPUE ofteleosts at the scale of sampling sites, but shark CPUE was positively correlated with the mean CPUE for teleosts within a region. Although there does not appear to be a strong match between the abundance of teleosts and sharks at small spatial scales, regional shark abundance is likely driven, at least partially, by the availability of prey. Management strategies that influence teleost abundance will have cascading effects to higher trophic levels in Florida Bay.
Keywordssharks habitat use spatial scale predator–prey interactions
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