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Fishes 2017, 2(2), 6; doi:10.3390/fishes2020006

Distribution, Spread, and Habitat Predictability of a Small, Invasive, Piscivorous Fish in an Important Estuarine Fish Nursery

ICF, 630 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, USA
Received: 14 February 2017 / Revised: 6 May 2017 / Accepted: 8 May 2017 / Published: 13 May 2017
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Abstract

Invasive species often cause negative ecological and economic effects. Florida has >20 established invasive fish species but only seven exist in saltwater. The present study examined Belonesox belizanus (Pike Killifish), a Central American euryhaline fish introduced to Tampa Bay (west-central Florida) in the early 1990s, which has quantifiably reduced populations of small-bodied native fishes and may compete with prized sportfish juveniles in estuarine nursery habitat. Long-term monitoring revealed that B. belizanus occurs in estuarine waterbodies along a 31-km stretch of the bay’s eastern fringe, with a second, smaller population in two western tributaries. Spread rate was estimated to be 5.5–13 km year−1, intermediate among invasive poeciliids. A novel implementation of boosted regression tree modeling to assess B. belizanus habitat predictability found greater probability of presence with decreasing water depth and pH, whereas presence tended to be greatest at polyhaline salinity. It is hypothesized that B. belizanus distribution in Tampa Bay is constrained by deep, seawall habitats acting as ecological barriers. Further B. belizanus spread therefore may be most likely to occur by human release (from aquaria or bait buckets) or bird carry-off. Newly restored tidal habitat within the current range probably will be invaded quite quickly by B. belizanus. View Full-Text
Keywords: Belonesox belizanus; nursery; Tampa Bay; invasive fish; ecological barrier; boosted regression tree; predation; estuary; habitat; prediction Belonesox belizanus; nursery; Tampa Bay; invasive fish; ecological barrier; boosted regression tree; predation; estuary; habitat; prediction
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Greenwood, M.F.D. Distribution, Spread, and Habitat Predictability of a Small, Invasive, Piscivorous Fish in an Important Estuarine Fish Nursery. Fishes 2017, 2, 6.

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