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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Spatio-temporal patterns of whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in the Adriatic Sea under environmental forcing

Asciutto, Emanuele; Maioli, Federico; Manfredi, Chiara; Anibaldi, Alessandra; Cimini, Jacopo; Isailovic, Igor; Marceta, Bojan; Casini, Michele

Abstract

Understanding how environmental factors affect species distribution is crucial for the conservation and management of marine organisms, especially in the face of global changes. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) is a demersal cold-temperate fish, considered a 'relict species' in the Adriatic Sea. Despite its significance to commercial fisheries in the region, the specific drivers behind its spatial and temporal patterns have not been thoroughly examined. Here, we fitted a set of Generalized Linear Mixed Effects Models to data collected in the Northern and Central Adriatic from 1999 to 2019 during the Mediterranean International Trawl Survey to investigate the potential influence of depth, seafloor temperature and seafloor dissolved oxygen on the annual biomass density and spatial distribution of whiting in the spring-summer season. Our results showed that depth, and to a lesser degree temperature and oxygen, are important predictors of whiting distribution in this period, with preferences for depths of similar to 45 m, temperature of similar to 15.4 degrees C and dissolved oxygen > 5.5 ml L-1. We predicted a persistent core area of distribution in front of the Po River Delta, in the Northern Adriatic Sea, while the density progressively declined towards the Central and Southern Adriatic Sea along the Italian coast. Additionally, the temporal trend exhibited high fluctuations over the years, occurring in cycles of 3 to 4 years. Finally, by comparing the biomass density estimates obtained under optimal conditions with those derived from the actual values for each variable, our analysis revealed that temperature had a pronounced and general impact on biomass density in the northern survey area (predictions revealed a density reduction of approximately two-thirds), while oxygen displayed a minor and more localized influence. This work deepens the current knowledge about the ecology of whiting in the Adriatic Sea and provides support for the conservation and management of this species.

Published in

PLoS ONE
2024, Volume: 19, number: 3, article number: e0289999Publisher: PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0289999

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/129361