We linked a 2-dimensional water quality model of the Patuxent River with a spatially-explicit model of fish growth to simulate how changes in land use in the Patuxent River Basin would affect the growth rate potential (GRP) of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). Simulations of three land-use patterns that reflected current nutrient loadings, increased nutrient loadings, and decreased nutrient loadings were used to drive the water quality model. Changes in nutrient loadings caused changes in the timing and intensity of phytoplankton concentrations and the region of hypoxia increased during summer with increased nutrient loading. The spatial distribution of menhaden GRP was highly correlated with phytoplankton concentrations and localized in the middle one third of the Patuxent River. Menhaden growth rate was highest in early June and late summer. During June, menhaden GRP (and phytoplankton concentration) was lowest at the lower nutrient loading simulation. During late summer, mean menhaden growth rates were inversely proportional to nutrient loading rates and menhaden grew best when nutrient loadings were the lowest. Upriver to mid-river phytoplankton patches drove overall mean calculations. Model results suggest that more research is needed on water quality model predictions of phytoplankton levels at a high level of spatial and temporal resolution, menhaden foraging, and menhaden habitat selection.
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