Environmental Drivers of Nearshore Fish Community Composition and Size Structure in Glacially Influenced Gulf of Alaska Estuaries
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Environmental Drivers of Nearshore Fish Community Composition and Size Structure in Glacially Influenced Gulf of Alaska Estuaries

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  • Journal Title:
    Estuaries and Coasts
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    Coastal ecosystems in Alaska are undergoing rapid change due to warming and glacier recession. We used a natural gradient of glacierized to non-glacierized watersheds (0–60% glacier coverage) in two regions along the Gulf of Alaska—Kachemak Bay and Lynn Canal—to evaluate relationships between local environmental conditions and estuarine fish communities. Multivariate analyses of fish community data collected from five sites per region in 2019 showed that region accounted for the most variation in community composition, suggesting that local effects of watershed type were masked by regional-scale variables. Seasonal shifts in community composition were driven largely by the influx of juvenile Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in late spring. Spatiotemporal differences among fish communities were partly explained by salinity and temperature, which accounted for 19.5% of the variation in community composition. We used a multi-year dataset from Lynn Canal (2014–2019) to examine patterns of mean length for two dominant species. Generalized additive mixed models indicated that Pacific staghorn sculpin (Leptocottus armatus) mean length varied along site-specific seasonal gradients, increasing gradually through the summer in the least glacially influenced sites and increasing rapidly to an asymptote of ~ 150 mm in the most glacially influenced sites. Starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) mean length was more strongly related to environmental conditions, increasing with temperature and turbidity. Together, our findings suggest that community compositions of estuarine fishes show greater variation at the regional scale than the watershed scale, but species-specific variation in size distributions may indicate differences in habitat quality across watershed types within regions.
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    Estuaries and Coasts, 45(7), 2151-2165
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    1559-2723;1559-2731;
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    CC BY
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    Library
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