Dynamic Seascapes Predict the Marine Occurrence of an Endangered Species

Matt Breece1, Dewayne A Fox2, Keith J Dunton2,3, Mike G Frisk4, Adrian Jordaan5 and Matthew J Oliver1, (1)University of Delaware, Lewes, DE, United States, (2)Delaware State University, Dover, DE, United States, (3)Monmouth University, Biology, West Long Branch, NJ, United States, (4)Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, United States, (5)University of Massachusetts, Environmental Conservation, Amherst, MA, United States
  1. Landscapes are powerful environmental partitions that index complex biogeochemical processes that drive terrestrial species distributions. However, translating landscapes into seascapes requires that the dynamic nature of the fluid environment be reflected in spatial and temporal boundaries such that seascapes can be used in marine species distribution models and conservation decisions. 
  2. A seascape product derived from satellite ocean color and sea surface temperature partitioned mid-Atlantic coastal waters on scales commensurate with the Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus coastal migration. The seascapes were then matched with acoustic telemetry records of Atlantic Sturgeon to determine seascape selectivity. To test our model, we used real-time satellite seascape maps to normalize the sampling of an autonomous underwater vehicle that resampled similar geographic regions with time varying seascape classifications.
  3. We found that Atlantic Sturgeon exhibited preference for one seascape class over those available in the coastal ocean, indicating selection for environmental properties that co-varied with the dynamic seascape class rather than geographical location.
  4. The recent listing of Atlantic Sturgeon as Endangered throughout much of their United States range has highlighted the need for improved understanding of their occurrence in marine waters to reduce interactions with various anthropogenic stressors. Narrow dynamic migration corridors may enable seascapes to be used as a daily decision tool by industry and managers to reduce interactions with this Endangered Species during coastal migrations.