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Age-specific habitat preference, carrying capacity, and landscape structure determine the response of population spatial variability to fishing-driven age truncation

Citation

Tao, Hsiao-Hang et al. (2022), Age-specific habitat preference, carrying capacity, and landscape structure determine the response of population spatial variability to fishing-driven age truncation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.dv41ns1xp

Abstract

1. Understanding the mechanisms underlying spatial variability of exploited fish is critical for the sustainable management of fish stocks. Empirical studies suggest that size-selective fishing can elevate fish population spatial variability (i.e., more heterogeneous distribution) through age truncation, making the population less resilient to changing environment. However, species differ in how their spatial variability respond to age truncation and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

2. We hypothesize that age-specific habitat preference, together with environmental carrying capacity and landscape structure, determines the response of population spatial variability to fishing-induced age truncation. To test these hypotheses, we design an individual-based model of an age-structured fish population on a two-dimensional landscape under size-selective fishing. Individual fish reproduces and survives, and moves between habitats according to age-specific habitat preference and density-dependent habitat selection.

3. Population spatial variability elevates with increasing age truncation and the response is stronger for populations with stronger age-specific habitat preference. On a gradient landscape, reducing carrying capacity elevates the relative importance of density-dependence in habitat selection, which weakens the response of spatial variability to age truncation for populations with strong age-specific habitat preference. On a fragmented landscape, both populations with strong and weak age-specific habitat preferences are restricted at local optimal habitats, and reducing carrying capacity weakens the responses of spatial variability to age truncation for both populations.

4. Synthesis and applications. We demonstrate that to track and predict the changes in population spatial variability under exploitation, it is essential to consider the interactive effects of age-specific habitat preference, carrying capacity, and landscape structure. To improve spatial management in fisheries, it is crucial to enhance empirical and theoretical developments in the methodology to quantify age-specific habitat preference of marine fish, and to understand how climatic change influences carrying capacity and landscape continuity.