SPATIAL ECOLOGY OF BLUE CRAB (CALLINECTES SAPIDUS) IN CHESAPEAKE BAY
Jensen, Olaf Peter
Miller, Thomas J
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Spatial heterogeneity is a striking feature of the blue crab life history and fisheries in Chesapeake Bay. However, a quantitative assessment of their spatial distribution and the factors controlling it has been lacking. Based on 13 years of data from a baywide winter dredge survey, geostatistical and two-stage generalized additive models (GAMs) are used to characterize blue crab distributions and investigate environmental factors responsible for the distribution of mature females, respectively. A landscape-based distance metric, the "Lowest-Cost Path" (LCP) distance, is developed as an alternative to Euclidean distance for kriging in estuaries. Estimates of variogram parameters differed significantly between the two metrics but kriging accuracy did not. Geostatistical abundance estimates show significant declines from 1990 to 2002. The observed relationship between changes in distribution and changes in abundance is suggestive of density-dependent habitat selection. Depth and distance from the Bay mouth were the most important predictors of mature female abundance.