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Habitat association of plaice, sole and lemon sole in the English Channel

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Hinz, H. , Bergmann, M. , Shucksmith, R. , Kaiser, M. J. and Rogers, S. I. (2006): Habitat association of plaice, sole and lemon sole in the English Channel , Ices journal of marine science, 316 , pp. 912-927 . doi: 10.1016/j.icesjms.2006.03.011
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Abstract:

Flatfishes have been the subject of scientific research since the beginning of the 19th century but information on the specific habitat requirement of the adult life stages is largely anecdotal. Detailed knowledge of flatfish habitats however is a precondition for a more ecosystem orientated approach to fisheries management. Here the association between benthic habitat and the adult life stage of three flatfish species plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), sole (Solea solea) and lemon sole (Microstomus kitt) was investigated in the English Channel. Data from groundfish surveys spanning a period of 9 years was used to identify three distinct site groups: sites where a species occurred in consistently high abundances, sites of variable or low abundance and sites at which none were caught. Following the supposition of habitat selection theories such as the ideal free distribution theory these three sites groups should represent a gradient in habitat suitability from highly suitable to less suitable and unsuitable respectively. Habitat parameters and features for the three site groups and species were described and analysed. In particular sediment type and the importance of structuring epifauna for adult flatfish was investigated. Overall plaice and sole showed very similar trends for abiotic environmental parameters such as depth, temperature, salinity and tidal currents. Lemon sole was found over distinctly different habitats which may indicate a stronger niche partitioning of this species. Sediment associations differed between the three species with plaice predominantly occurring over sandy substrates with little mud and gravel content, while sole was found over a wider range of muddy to sandy substrates. Lemon sole was predominantly found over sand however containing a higher percentage of gravel than plaice. Structuring emergent epifauna was related positively to plaice and lemon sole abundances. These structures might be important as they tend to harbour larger numbers of epibenthic species upon which adult plaice and lemon sole prey. No such trend was found for the tactile feeding sole which mainly forages on infaunal polychaetes and molluscs.

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