Delineation and mapping of coastal shark habitat within a shallow lagoonal estuary

Published on 12. April 2018

Delineation and mapping of coastal shark habitat within a shallow lagoonal estuary

Charles W. Bangley, Lee Paramore, Simon Dedman, Roger A. Rulifson


Estuaries function as important nursery and foraging habitats for many coastal species, including highly migratory sharks. Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, is one of the largest estuaries in the continental United States and provides a variety of potential habitats for sharks. In order to identify and spatially delineate shark habitats within Pamlico Sound, shark catch and environmental data were analyzed from the 2007–2014 North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) gillnet and longline surveys conducted within the estuary. Principal species were identified and environmental data recorded at survey sites (depth, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) distance, and inlet distance) were interpolated across Pamlico Sound to create seasonal environmental grids with a 90-m2 cell size. Boosted Regression Tree (BRT) analysis was used to identify the most important environmental factors and ranges associated with presence of each principal species, and the resulting models were used to predict shark capture probability based on the environmental values within the grid cells. The Atlantic Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas), Sandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus), Smooth Dogfish (Mustelus canis), and Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias) were the principal species in Pamlico Sound. Most species were associated with proximity to the inlet and/or high salinity, and warm temperatures, but the Bull Shark preferred greater inlet distances and the Spiny Dogfish preferred lower temperatures than the other species. Extensive Smooth Dogfish habitat overlap with seagrass beds suggests that seagrass may be a critical part of nursery habitat for this species. Spatial delineation of shark habitat within the estuary will allow for better protection of essential habitat and assessment of potential interactions with other species.

PLoS ONE 13(4): e0195221



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