Impact of habitat structure on fish populations in kelp forests at a seascape scale

Sievers, KT, Barr RJ, Maloney JM, Driscoll NW, Anderson TW.  2016.  Impact of habitat structure on fish populations in kelp forests at a seascape scale. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 557:51-63.

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adult california, barred sand bass, embiotoca-jacksoni, fish populations, habitat structure, home-range, kelp forest, movement patterns, paralabrax-clathratus, prey, reefs, refuges, remote sensing, rocky, Seascape, semicossyphus-pulcher labridae, sheephead, take marine reserve, temperate reef fish


Habitat use by a species is a vital component in explaining the dynamics of natural populations. For mobile marine species such as fishes, describing habitat heterogeneity at a seascape scale is essential because it quantifies the spatial extent to which fishes are interacting with their environment. Here, we explored the relationships between habitat metrics and the density and size of kelp forest fishes across a seascape that is naturally fragmented. Multibeam sonar and GIS analysis were employed to create a seascape map that explicitly defined bathymetry and spatial configuration of rocky reefs in southern California (USA). Georeferenced subtidal transects were conducted across this seascape to describe habitat attributes, including the density of macroalgae, and record the number and size of fishes. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify which variables of habitat structure were most important in describing numerical density, biomass density, average size, and maximum size for fishes. Responses to different habitat components were dependent on particular species, choice of spatial scale, and the inherent characteristics of the seascape itself. Notably, the relative influence of seascape components was dependent on the configuration of the seascape, where fishes in a more isolated and less connected seascape were more influenced by spatial configuration than fishes in a seascape with greater habitat connectedness. This study demonstrates that explicit habitat maps allow for a more comprehensive understanding of population structure when describing fishes across large spatial scales.