Marine Science Faculty Publications

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Estuaries, Marine fish, Population dynamics, Biomass, Salinity, Metapopulation dynamics, Predation, Gulf of Mexico

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Forage fishes play an important role in marine ecosystems by transferring energy and nutrients through the food web. The population dynamics of forage species can therefore have cascading effects across multiple trophic levels. Here, we analyzed a 19-year dataset on Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides) across four eastern Gulf of Mexico estuaries to investigate population dynamics, inter- and intra-annual synchrony, metapopulation portfolio effects, growth, and habitat effects. Young-of-year growth rates did not differ among estuaries. The population dynamics of these four systems were stable in the long-term, but highly dynamic inter-annually. Intra-annual dynamics were stable and predictable despite variation in long-term means. Some estuaries exhibited positive inter-annual synchrony, and all four estuaries were synchronous intra-annually. There was evidence for stronger portfolio effects for the entire four-estuary metapopulation, as well as for the two northern estuaries while the southern estuaries appeared to act as a single population. Submerged aquatic vegetation was by far the most important predictor for both presence and abundance of Pinfish. It is important to understand the factors driving forage fish population fluctuations to better predict ecosystem effects, including those to species of economic and ecological importance. These predictors can be useful for the implementation of ecosystem-based management decisions.

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PLoS ONE, v. 14, issue 8, art. e0221131

pone.0221131.s001.docx (13 kB)
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