Fish Distributions in Lake Ontario's Eastern Basin and the Upper St. Lawrence River: An Analysis Using GIS and Occupancy Modelling Techniques
Predictive models of species distributions are important tools for fisheries management. Unfortunately, these predictive models can be difficult to perform on large waterbodies where fish are difficult to detect and exhaustive sampling is not possible. In recent years the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and new occupancy modelling techniques has improved our ability to predict distributions across landscapes as well as account for imperfect detection. I surveyed the nearshore fish community at 105 sites between Kingston, Ontario and Rockport, Ontario with the objective of modelling geographic and environmental characteristics associated with littoral fish distributions. Occupancy modelling was performed on Round Goby, Yellow perch, and Lepomis spp. Modelling with geographic and environmental covariates revealed the effect of shoreline exposure on nearshore habitat characteristics and the occupancy of Round Goby. Yellow Perch, and Lepomis spp. occupancy was most strongly associated negatively with distance to a wetland. These results are consistent with past research on large lake systems indicate the importance of wetlands and shoreline exposure in determining the fish community of the littoral zone. By examining 3 species with varying rates of occupancy and detection, this study was also able to demonstrate the variable utility of occupancy modelling.
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