Elasmobranchs, which include sharks and batoids, play critical roles in maintaining the integrity and stability of marine food webs. However, these cartilaginous fish are among the most threatened vertebrate lineages due to their widespread depletion. Consequently, understanding dynamics and predicting changes of elasmobranch communities are major research topics in conservation ecology. Here, we leverage long-term catch data from a standardized bottom trawl survey conducted from 1996 to 2019, to evaluate the spatio-temporal dynamics of the elasmobranch community in the heavily exploited Adriatic Sea, where these fish have historically been depleted. We use joint species distribution modeling to quantify the responses of the species to environmental variation while also including important traits such as species age at first maturity, reproductive mode, trophic level, and phylogenetic information. We present spatio-temporal changes in the species community and associated modification of the trait composition, highlighting strong spatial and depth-mediated patterning. We observed an overall increase in the abundance of the dominant elasmobranch species, except for spurdog, which has shown a continued decline. However, our results showed that the present community displays lower age at first maturity and a smaller fraction of viviparous species compared to the earlier observed community due to changes in species’ relative abundance. The selected traits contributed considerably to explaining community patterns, suggesting that the integration of trait-based approaches in elasmobranch community analyses can aid efforts to conserve this important lineage of fish.

Influence of ecological traits on spatio-temporal dynamics of an elasmobranch community in a heavily exploited basin

Elettra Chiarabelli;
2023-01-01

Abstract

Elasmobranchs, which include sharks and batoids, play critical roles in maintaining the integrity and stability of marine food webs. However, these cartilaginous fish are among the most threatened vertebrate lineages due to their widespread depletion. Consequently, understanding dynamics and predicting changes of elasmobranch communities are major research topics in conservation ecology. Here, we leverage long-term catch data from a standardized bottom trawl survey conducted from 1996 to 2019, to evaluate the spatio-temporal dynamics of the elasmobranch community in the heavily exploited Adriatic Sea, where these fish have historically been depleted. We use joint species distribution modeling to quantify the responses of the species to environmental variation while also including important traits such as species age at first maturity, reproductive mode, trophic level, and phylogenetic information. We present spatio-temporal changes in the species community and associated modification of the trait composition, highlighting strong spatial and depth-mediated patterning. We observed an overall increase in the abundance of the dominant elasmobranch species, except for spurdog, which has shown a continued decline. However, our results showed that the present community displays lower age at first maturity and a smaller fraction of viviparous species compared to the earlier observed community due to changes in species’ relative abundance. The selected traits contributed considerably to explaining community patterns, suggesting that the integration of trait-based approaches in elasmobranch community analyses can aid efforts to conserve this important lineage of fish.
2023
13-giu-2023
Pubblicato
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-36038-y
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3054719
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