Identifying Seasonal Spatial Scale for the Ecological Analysis of Herring and Other Forage Fish in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Identifying Seasonal Spatial Scale for the Ecological Analysis of Herring and Other Forage Fish in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Evelyn D. Brown, Jia Wang, Shari L. Vaughan, and Brenda L. Norcross

Identifying Seasonal Spatial Scale for the Ecological Analysis of Herring and Other Forage Fish in Prince William Sound, AlaskaThis is part of Ecosystem Approaches for Fisheries Management
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Description

Recently there has been increasing interest in the distribution, abundance, and ecology of forage fish populations because of the crucial role they play in nearshore and pelagic ecosystems. However, relatively little is known about the ecology of forage fishes in Alaska. From 1995 to 1997 extensive ecosystem studies were conducted in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Monthly broadscale aerial surveys were included in those studies for the purpose of determining distribution and abundance of juvenile Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) and other surface-schooling forage fishes (Brown and Norcross 1997). Many other types of physical and biological data were also available for the same area and dates that could be used for ecological analyses of forage fishes. In order to proceed with hypothesis-driven science, we recognized that basic descriptive life history parameters and the spatial overlap with other ecological parameters needed to be documented first. Therefore, a general research goal was established to perform an ecological analysis of forage fish distribution and abundance using the appropriate spatial scale. The research objective for this effort was to identify and define the appropriate seasonal spatial scale. In order to address the objective we used geographic information system (GIS) methodology since it is a powerful tool for examining spatial processes. Because of the profusion of data available we focused on Prince William Sound (PWS), situated at the northern boundary of the Gulf of Alaska in southcentral Alaska.

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