Habitat- and bay-scale connectivity of sympatric fishes in an estuarine nursery Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Acoustic telemetry was used to examine habitat- and bay-scale connectivity for co-occurring juvenile fishes, southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) and red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), at two spatial scales in a model estuarine seascape. An acoustic positioning system was deployed to examine habitat-scale (ca. 1 m-1 km) movement, while a larger gridded array was deployed to examine bay-scale movement (ca. 1-20 km). Both species exhibited greater use of edge habitat and seagrass beds at the habitat scale; however, rates of movement within habitats varied between species. Southern flounder movement (mean = 4.0 m min-1) increased with decreasing habitat complexity (seagrass to bare sand) and increasing temperature, while red drum rate of movement (mean = 8.4 m min-1) was not significantly affected by environmental factors at the habitat scale, indicating the use of different foraging strategies (i.e. ambush vs. active). Bay-scale distribution was influenced by physicochemical conditions and seascape composition, with both species found most frequently in areas with high seagrass coverage and relative close proximity to tidal creeks and connective channels. Response to environmental variables often differed between species and the probability of bay-scale movement (>1 km) for southern flounder was greatest on days with narrow tidal ranges (<0.4 m) and higher temperatures (>17 C), while the probability of bay-scale movement for red drum increased in response to decreasing salinity and lower temperatures (<16 C). Species-specific variation in movement patterns within and across habitat types observed here at both the habitat and bay scale suggest sympatric species employ different strategies to partition resources within estuarine nursery areas and highlight the importance of multi-species assessments for improving our understanding of habitat value and ecosystem function.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Dance, M. A., & Rooker, J. R.

citation count

  • 40

complete list of authors

  • Dance, Michael A||Rooker, Jay R

publication date

  • December 2015