CIE Spotlight: Application of species distribution models to explain and predict the distribution, abundance and assemblage structure of nearshore temperate reef fishes

Mary Y.

Mary Y.

Title: Application of species distribution models to explain and predict the distribution, abundance and assemblage structure of nearshore temperate reef fishes

Authors: Young, Mary; Carr, Mark H.

Source: DIVERSITY AND DISTRIBUTIONS, 21 (12):1428-1440, DEC 2015

Brief summary of the paper:

Aim: The purpose of this study was to create predictive species distribution models (SDMs) for temperate reef-associated fish species densities and fish assemblage diversity and richness to aid in marine conservation and spatial planning.

Location: California, USA.

Methods: Using generalized additive models, we associated fish species densities and assemblage characteristics with seafloor structure, giant kelp biomass and wave climate and used these associations to predict the distribution and assemblage structure across the study area. We tested the accuracy of these predicted extrapolations using an independent data set. The SDMs were also used to estimate larger scale abundances to compare with other estimates of species abundance (uniform density extrapolation over rocky reef and density extrapolations taking into account variations in geomorphic structure).

Results: The SDMs successfully modelled the species–habitat relationships of seven rocky reef-associated fish species and showed that species’ densities differed in their relationships with environmental variables. The predictive accuracy of the SDMs ranged from 0.26 to 0.60 (Pearson’s r correlation between observed and predicted density values). The SDMs created for the fish assemblage-level variables had higher prediction accuracies with Pearson’s r values of 0.61 for diversity and 0.71 for richness. The comparisons of the different methods for extrapolating species densities over a single marine protected area varied greatly in their abundance estimates with the uniform extrapolation (density values extrapolated evenly over the rocky reef) always estimating much greater abundances. The other two methods, which took into account variation in the geomorphic structure of the reef, provided much lower abundance estimates.

Main conclusions: Species distribution models that combine geomorphic, oceanographic and biogenic habitat variables can reliably predict spatial patterns of species density and assemblage attributes of temperate reef fishes at spatial scales of 50 m. Thus, SDMs show great promise for informing spatial and ecosystem-based approaches to conservation and fisheries management.