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NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-360

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Model-based essential fish habitat definitions for Aleutian Islands groundfish species

Abstract

Defining essential habitats for fishes is important for managing groundfish in Alaska. Species distribution models have been widely used in conservation biology and terrestrial systems to define the potential habitat for organisms of interest. The models themselves can take a number of forms, from relatively simple frameworks such as generalized linear or additive models to complex modeling frameworks such as boosted regression trees, maximum entropy models, two-stage models or other formulations. We used a variety of modeling methods and data sets from scientific surveys and commercial fisheries to define the habitats for over 30 fish species in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Adult, juvenile, larval and egg stages were modeled in four seasons where data were available. Depth was the most important variable determining the distribution of most adult and juvenile life history stages whereas sea surface temperature was the most important variable for egg and larval stages. Using the models, maps were developed that identified local hot spots for each species and life stage. These maps will be used for marine spatial planning and assessing impacts of anthropogenic activities in Alaska’s marine environment.

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