Many fishes undergo ontogenetic habitat shifts to meet their energy and resource needs as they grow. Habitat resource partitioning and patterns of habitat connectivity between conspecific fishes at different life-history stages is a significant knowledge gap. Species distribution models were used to examine patterns in the relative abundance, individual biomass estimates and environmental niche associations of different life stages of three iconic West Australian fishes. Continuous predictive maps describing the spatial distribution of abundance and individual biomass of the study species were created as well predictive hotspot maps that identify possible areas for aggregation of individuals of similar life stages of multiple species (i.e. spawning grounds, fisheries refugia or nursery areas). The models and maps indicate that processes driving the abundance patterns could be different from the body size associated demographic processes throughout an individual's life cycle. Incorporating life-history in the spatially explicit management plans can ensure that critical habitat of the vulnerable stages (e.g. juvenile fish, spawning stock) is included within proposed protected areas and can enhance connectivity between various functional areas (e.g. nursery areas and adult populations) which, in turn, can improve the abundance of targeted species as well as other fish species relying on healthy ecosystem functioning.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2018|