Modelling the habitat preferences of the NE-Atlantic Sea cucumber Holothuria forskali : demographics and abundance
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Sea cucumbers' historical demand, together with the depletion of several traditional species in the market, has popularized new target species from new fishing grounds. Holothuria forskali is one of those emergent species in the trade market. However, it is a species for which there is no relevant information to allow sustainable stock management. Fundamental knowledge of the populations' structure and habitat preferences are key elements without which any measure is inconsequent. This work aims to fill that gap by modelling temporal and spatial patterns of abundance and demographic structure of this species in a NE-Atlantic area, as a function of environmental features. For a period of 15 months, nine regular sampling campaigns collected data on density, individual length, individual conditions of occurrence (e.g. sheltered, on sand, on algae cover) and environmental parameters (water column, sediment, substrate cover and type), using random transects throughout a costal rocky-reef, considering habitat heterogeneity and substrate types. To determine the species' habitat preferences Generalized Linear Models were used to model density and demographic structure of the species as a function of environmental conditions. The models revealed that the main drivers shaping the distribution of H. forskali are neither abiotic nor biotic parameters of the water column, but physical stressors, like current intensity and depth, and substrate type in a patchy distribution pattern. Estuarine conditions are generally avoided, although with a size-dependent opportunistic strategy. Larger individuals show temporal and spatial displacement patterns towards suitable reproductive conditions (pre-breeding aggregation) and favourable feeding grounds and smaller size-classes tend to aggregate in higher numbers in more stable environments. Sustainable sources for market supply, like aquaculture, are still a long way from commercial production. So, these results are fundamental to support effective conservation measures for stock management of H. forskali
Félix , P M , Azevedo e Silva , F , Simões , T , Pombo , A , Marques , T A , Rocha , C , Sousa , J , Venâncio , E & Brito , A C 2024 , ' Modelling the habitat preferences of the NE-Atlantic Sea cucumber Holothuria forskali : demographics and abundance ' , Ecological Informatics , vol. 80 , 102476 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2024.102476
Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
DescriptionThis work was funded by the Operational Program Mar2020 MAR-02.01.01-FEAMP-0052 “Newcumber - Avanços para o cultivo sustentável de pepinos do mar”. This work was also supported by national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., within the scope of the projects (https://doi.org/10.54499/UIDB/04292/2020, and https://doi.org/10.54499/UIDB/00006/2020) and the Associate Laboratory ARNET (https://doi.org/10.54499/LA/P/0069/2020), A.C. Brito with the Scientific Stimulus Program – CEECIND/00095/2017, A.P. with the under the Scientific Employment Stimulus - Institutional Call - CEECINST/00051/2018 and Francisco Azevedo e Silva and João Trigo de Sousa through the individual grants (SFRH/BD/09563/2020 and SFRH/BDANA/02949/2023).
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