Density-Dependent Habitat Use and Growth Rate of Juvenile Red Drum

Thursday, September 12, 2013: 1:00 PM
Manning (The Marriott Little Rock)
Nathan M. Bacheler , NOAA Fisheries, Beaufort, NC
Jeffrey A. Buckel , Biology, Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, North Carolina State University, Morehead City, NC
Lee M. Paramore , North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, Wanchese, NC
Density dependence can stabilize or destabilize population size through negative or positive feedback controls operating over different spatial and temporal scales.  While many species have been shown to exhibit density dependence, the topic has received little attention in estuaries where environmental variability and larval supply are often considered to be the primary drivers of population dynamics.  We used multiple long-term, fishery-independent datasets and a unique modeling approach to test the hypothesis that juvenile red drum Sciaenops ocellatus exhibit density-dependent habitat use and growth rates in estuaries in North Carolina, USA.  Age-1 red drum exhibited density-dependent habitat use after accounting for environmental and landscape variables, disproportionately increasing northward and coastward in the study area at high abundance.  Apparent individual growth rates of age-0 and age-1 red drum were generally negatively related to the abundance of their own age classes, but evidence of density-dependent growth rates for age-2 red drum was weak to nonexistent.  Changes in spatial distribution of red drum when overall abundance was high did not overcome density-dependent effects on individual growth rates.  Thus, density-dependent effects have potential negative feedbacks on population growth in estuaries and should not be ignored in future theoretical or empirical estuarine studies.