About this Research Topic
Fisheries management and conservation in marine and estuarine environments are increasingly interdisciplinary processes, and this is especially true for approaches that use habitat and distribution models to identify the ecological niches essential for feeding, reproduction, and rearing. These models can be used to explore a diverse array of topics including biogeography, conservation biology, climate-change research, and habitat or species management. Models used to develop species distribution maps commonly leverage existing survey data to identify potential areas of conservation interest (i.e., biodiversity hotspots or essential fish habitats). This provides valuable information to natural resource managers without the need to conduct new, expensive field surveys. As fishery biologists develop fish movement models from telemetry data, and as spatial structure becomes increasingly incorporated into population models and stock assessments, it is important to understand the strengths, and weaknesses, of different species-habitat and distribution modeling approaches.
Multiple analytical methods (e.g., generalized additive models, random forests, boosted regression trees, and maximum entropy) have been developed and applied to understand the relationships between environmental factors and species distributions, and how populations respond to climate- and land-use changes. A challenge is to understand how biodiversity and trophic interactions may influence changes in habitats and species distribution, in conjunction with bottom-up drivers. Habitat-based models may also be used as the basis for simulating fish movement. Depending on the research question, some of these methods, alone and in combination, have been used to examine how species distributions change at large oceanographic scales. These methods can also be applied to multispecies complexes when such complexes respond similarly to environmental change. Management issues, however, are generally more tractable at smaller spatial and taxonomic scales. Thus, when managing or conserving individual species, changes in species distributions are best studied on smaller spatial scales. For example, habitat and distribution models have been used successfully to identify priority areas for conservation and protection of marine and estuarine species. Such models can also be used to identify species that may be at risk due to habitat loss. These habitat and distribution models often rely on the integration of physical, biological, and chemical models, and can yield insights from comparisons of conditions at locations where (or times when) a species is present and absent. Other approaches combine habitat models with species distributions or movement data; additional approaches link habitat models with behavioral (Lagrangian or agent-based) models of movement and migration to advance our understanding of key processes important to sustaining viable populations. Habitat and distribution models have advanced greatly in the last few decades and continue to improve, in terms of analytical methods, model development, and spatial resolution.
This Research Topic welcomes contributions that advance our understanding of how species and habitat distribution models are used for the management and conservation of marine and estuarine species, and how these models are used in combination with other data and modeling approaches to project species distributions. Contributions may focus on the development, testing, and uses of habitat models or on the data and modeling approaches that support or use the habitat models. We invite submission of the following article types that address this topic: original research; brief research reports; methods; reviews; mini-reviews; and perspective, policy and practice reviews.
Keywords: aquatic, habitat, ecology, spatial, models
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