Green Sturgeon Distribution in the Pacific Ocean Estimated from Modeled Oceanographic Features and Migration Behavior

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Abstract

The green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), which is found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Baja California to the Bering Sea, tends to be highly migratory, moving long distances among estuaries, spawning rivers, and distant coastal regions. Factors that determine the oceanic distribution of green sturgeon are unclear, but broad-scale physical conditions interacting with migration behavior may play an important role. We estimated the distribution of green sturgeon by modeling species-environment relationships using oceanographic and migration behavior covariates with maximum entropy modeling (MaxEnt) of species geographic distributions. The primary concentration of green sturgeon was estimated from approximately 41-51.5° N latitude in the coastal waters of Washington, Oregon, and Vancouver Island and in the vicinity of San Francisco and Monterey Bays from 36-37° N latitude. Unsuitably cold water temperatures in the far north and energetic efficiencies associated with prevailing water currents may provide the best explanation for the range-wide marine distribution of green sturgeon. Independent trawl records, fisheries observer records, and tagging studies corroborated our findings. However, our model also delineated patchily distributed habitat south of Monterey Bay, though there are few records of green sturgeon from this region. Green sturgeon are likely influenced by countervailing pressures governing their dispersal. They are behaviorally directed to revisit natal freshwater spawning rivers and persistent overwintering grounds in coastal marine habitats, yet they are likely physiologically bounded by abiotic and biotic environmental features. Impacts of human activities on green sturgeon or their habitat in coastal waters, such as bottom-disturbing trawl fisheries, may be minimized through marine spatial planning that makes use of high-quality species distribution information.

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Huff, D. D., Lindley, S. T., Wells, B. K., & Chai, F. (2012). Green Sturgeon Distribution in the Pacific Ocean Estimated from Modeled Oceanographic Features and Migration Behavior. PLoS ONE, 7(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045852

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