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Linking juvenile fish and their habitats: An example from Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Abstract

We used two methods and existing field survey data to link juvenile fish and their habitats. The first method used seine survey data collected monthly from July to October 1988–1996 at fixed stations in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Thirteen fish species making up 1% or more of the catch were analyzed by principal components analysis for two time periods: July–August and September–October. The stations were then plotted by their principal component scores to identify station groupings and habitat types. The second method used environmental data collected in July and August 1996 at the established survey stations in a principal components analysis. The stations and 13 most abundant species were plotted by principal components scores resulting from the environmental data. For the environmental data, the first two principal components explained 59% of the variance. The first principal component described the amount of energy shaping the habitat and was positively correlated with salinity, dissolved oxygen, current flow, and slope, and negatively correlated with silt. The second component was positively correlated with depth and silt, and negatively correlated with dissolved oxygen. The environmental data grouped the stations according to their distance from the ocean and three habitat types emerged. The uppermost station was a silty barren having low salinities and dissolved oxygen. Three other stations grouped together as low energy, protected habitats with sandy substrates. Lower bay stations had higher salinities, higher dissolved oxygen, higher flow rates, greater slopes, and larger size substrates, mostly cobble and gravel. Results from the fish data grouped the stations similarly. Combining results from both datasets revealed the uppermost station had the highest catches, most species, and greatest number of winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) juveniles. Plots of winter flounder catches with principal component scores from the environmental data indicated the winter flounder distribution in the bay has shrunk from baywide to mostly the upper estuary near their primary spawning grounds. Results illustrate the value of coupling historic fish survey data with environmental measurements for identifying previously undervalued habitats important to fish.

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Correspondence to Lesa Meng.

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Meng, L., Christopher Powell, J. Linking juvenile fish and their habitats: An example from Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Estuaries 22, 905 (1999). https://doi.org/10.2307/1353070

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1353070

Keywords

  • Environmental Data
  • Juvenile Fish
  • Principal Component Score
  • Atlantic Menhaden
  • Principal Component Space