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Spatial Distribution–Abundance Relationships in Juvenile (Age 0) Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus). I: Influence of Freshwater Inflow

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We examined relationships between freshwater inflow and population abundance and distribution of two size classes (15–50 mm Standard Length and 51–100 mm SL) of spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) and red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) over our 13-year study covering shallow waters of Tampa Bay and several adjacent rivers. Juveniles of seatrout were relatively abundant most years and broadly distributed primarily in the bay. Freshwater inflow was positively related to spatial distribution and abundance of smaller juveniles of seatrout, yet it was unrelated to the larger size class. Red drum juveniles were less abundant and narrowly distributed primarily within the rivers. Lower portions of the Alafia, Little Manatee, and Manatee Rivers—a combined area comprising only 2 % of the study area—contained 40–96 % of the annual population. Freshwater inflow was positively related to population distribution and abundance of larger red drum suggesting that reductions in inflow can reduce both habitat area and populations. Inflow was related to abundance but not distribution of the smaller red drum suggesting that inflow may increase habitat quality but perhaps not quantity at this earlier growth stage. Comparing spatial and population dynamics of multiple species can help prioritize them for conservation and management issues, such as freshwater inflow regulation. Reductions in inflow reduce populations and spatial distribution of at least one juvenile life stage of these two fishery species. Due to their narrow spatial distribution in the rivers, juveniles of red drum appear to be particularly vulnerable to modification of the riverine environment.

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We are grateful to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Fisheries Independent Monitoring program for collecting the field data used in this analysis. This sampling program is partially supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Sport Fish Restoration Grant F-43). In addition, we greatly appreciate support by senior staff (H. Norris, R. Flamm, and K. O’Keife) and the entire Center for Spatial Analysis team at FWRI (partially supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sport Fish Restoration Grant F-66). This manuscript benefited from valuable comments from W. Cooper, M. Barrett, R. Butryn, C. Harmak, and several anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Shannon D. Whaley.

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Communicated by Josianne G. Støttrup

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Whaley, S.D., Christman, M.C. & Burd, J.J. Spatial Distribution–Abundance Relationships in Juvenile (Age 0) Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus). I: Influence of Freshwater Inflow. Estuaries and Coasts 39, 742–751 (2016).

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