Cumulative Effects of Coastal Habitat Alterations on Fishery Resources: Toward Prediction at Regional Scales

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2009

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Abstract

"Coastal habitat alterations such as the loss of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) and hardening of shorelines could have cumulative effects on valuable fishery resources. To investigate this effect, we developed a multiscale modeling framework for blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Areal coverage of shoreline land cover and SAV for Mobile Bay, Alabama, were combined with information from small-scale biological studies and long-term, large-scale commercial fishery data to model the potential effects of marginal habitat losses on the blue crab fishery. We applied stochastic variation in annual recruitment to the fishery to estimate probabilities for sustainable harvests under scenarios of habitat loss. The simulations suggested that, accumulated over large areas, relatively small local losses of estuarine marsh edge and SAV habitats could have long-term negative effects on the sustainability of the fishery. Spatially extensive models are required to investigate the cumulative ecological effects of many local environmental changes. The requisite scaling adds uncertainty and reduces precision, but if model parameters are accurate at each scale, accurate predictions of long-term outcomes and probabilities are possible."

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crabs, fisheries, Gulf of Mexico, habitats, population--models

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