Species distribution modeling of Black Sea Bass (<i>Centropristis striata</i>) and White Grunt (<i>Haemulon plumierii</i>)
Walker, Margaret Frances
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The Marine Resources Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction program was founded in 1972, and is a long-term fishery-independent monitoring program of reef fish species in the U.S. South Atlantic Bight. Since 2009, the Southeast Reef Fish Survey has been used to refer to a cooperative fisheries project between the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and NOAA fisheries. Using this data, the purpose of this project was to examine the distribution of Black Sea Bass (<i>Centropristis striata</i>) and White Grunt (<i>Haemulon plumierii</i>) from 1990-2015 with respect to environmental conditions and biotic interactions. Species distribution modeling has become a common strategy for examining terrestrial species distributions, but has rarely been used in the marine realm. In this study, the generalized linear model framework, including k-fold cross validation, was used to examine the distribution of both species. Furthermore, the distribution was analyzed at three different scales to determine the effect of grain. Depth and latitude were the most important variables for describing the <i>C. striata</i> and <i>H. plumierii</i> distributions respectively. Positive relationships were found between occurrence and predator/prey species. Habitat variables also appear to be important, but the relationships found were somewhat unexpected, which could imply habitat variables and biotic interactions are confounded to some degree. Year effects for both species seem to follow abundance trends, fishing pressure, and management regulations. In regards to scale, model accuracy was best at the event level for both species, and thus was decided to be the best scale to describe these species distributions. The effects of scale, habitat, and biotic interactions were also evaluated, which is important for potential ecosystem based fisheries management in the future.