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Exploring seagrass fish assemblages in relation to the habitat patch mosaic in the brackish Baltic Sea
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8689-3561
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-166240OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-166240DiVA, id: diva2:1290321
Available from: 2019-02-20 Created: 2019-02-20 Last updated: 2019-03-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fish in the coastal seascape: exploring ecological processes and connectivity for conservation of temperate fish communities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fish in the coastal seascape: exploring ecological processes and connectivity for conservation of temperate fish communities
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The need to understand patterns and processes in the marine environment has never been so profound as today, particularly as anthropogenic pressures upon coastal regions are drastically affecting habitats and species across a vast range. One approach to further understand these patterns and processes is through the use of seascape ecology methods. Pertinently, fish are ideal candidates to use in many seascape ecological studies due to their mobility and potential to connect a multitude of patches and habitats throughout their life cycle. They also serve as fundamental components in coastal food webs and are of economic benefit. This thesis strives to answer how fish assemblages are affected by ecological and environmental patterns and changes in temperate seascapes throughout the Swedish Skagerrak and the Baltic Sea. 

Initially, the spatial arrangement of benthic habitat patches in coastal Skagerrak was investigated in relation to the fish community inhabiting seagrass meadows. Seascape structure and complexity was shown to create optimal or sub-optimal areas for certain parts of the fish community. For instance, simpler seascapes (e.g. less habitat patches and edges) were found to have a higher density of juvenile fish, while wrasse densities were related to more complex seascapes. This offers insights into the consequences of spatial patterning in the marine environment and possible effects of habitat loss in the ecosystem (paper I). Through surveying fish assemblages in common, shallow-water habitats, the more structurally complex habitats, i.e. seagrass and macroalgae, were found to harbour a greater fish abundance compared to the less complex unvegetated soft bottoms. However, all three habitats were deemed important for their role in supporting juvenile fish species, thus suggesting that embayments in this environment might function as seascape nurseries (paper II). The importance of connectivity of a marine predator was discovered using acoustic telemetry and network analysis. This study demonstrated that sea surface temperature was of major importance for Atlantic cod movement dynamics within a fjord system as well as revealing the significance of localised connectivity at varying spatial and temporal scales (paper III). Finally, spatial pattern relationships and fish assemblages were explored in Baltic seagrass meadows. Fish assemblages were dominated by meso-predators (i.e. three-spined stickleback) both during summer and autumn, with a noticeable lack of larger piscivorous species throughout both seasons. Correlative analysis showed that fish densities were influenced by seagrass habitat structure (negatively), area of bare sediment (negatively) and habitat patch diversity (positively) (paper IV).  

This thesis has lifted a central role in addressing important seascape ecology questions and tools in the temperate marine environment. Specifically, it highlights the importance of analysing patterns and processes at multiple scales to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between fish and their environments, which is relevant for marine spatial planning and conservation. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 2019. p. 37
Keywords
seascape ecology, landscape ecology, seagrass, marine habitats, fish, spatial analysis, connectivity, conservation, Sweden, temperate
National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-166242 (URN)978-91-7797-590-8 (ISBN)978-91-7797-591-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-05-03, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-Huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-04-10 Created: 2019-03-12 Last updated: 2019-03-28Bibliographically approved

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Staveley, ThomasWikström, SofiaGullström, Martin
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