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Delineating recurrent fish spawning habitats in the North Sea

By Stephanie Lelievre, Sandrine Vaz, C. S. Martin and Christophe Loots


The functional value of spawning habitats makes them critically important for the completion of fish life cycles and spawning grounds are now considered to be “essential habitats”. Inter-annual fluctuations in spawning ground distributions of dab (Limanda Limanda), plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), cod (Gadus morhua) and whiting (Merlangius merlangus) were investigated in the southern North Sea and eastern English Channel, from 2006 to 2009. The preferential spawning habitats of these species were modelled using generalised linear models, with egg distribution being used as proxy of spawners’ location. Egg spatial and temporal distributions were explored based on six environmental variables: sea surface temperature and salinity, chlorophyll a concentration, depth, bedstress and seabed sediment types. In most cases, egg density was found to be strongly related to these environmental variables. Egg densities were positively correlated with shallow to intermediate depths having low temperature and relatively high salinity. Habitat models were used to map annual, i.e. 2006 to 2009, winter spatial distributions of eggs, for each species separately. Then, annual maps were combined to explore the spatial variability of each species' spawning grounds, and define recurrent, occasional, rare and unfavourable spawning areas. The recurrent spawning grounds of all four species were located in the south-eastern part of the study area, mainly along the Dutch and German coasts. This study contributes knowledge necessary to the spatial management of fisheries resources in the area, and may also be used to identify marine areas with particular habitat features that need to be preserved

Topics: Egg Distribution, Spawning Grounds, North Sea, Temporal Variability, Habitat Modelling, GLM
Publisher: 'Elsevier BV'
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.seares2014.03.008
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