Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Christopher Stallings

Keywords

abundance, lanscape, nursery, predation risk, submerged aquatic vegetation, water clarity

Abstract

Biological processes like species interactions and patterns such as abundance and distribution observed in nature can vary depending on the scale at which the subject of interest is evaluated. Knowing that there is no single natural scale at which systems should be studied, in this thesis, I conducted a series of basic and applied ecological approaches in order to examine the phenomena that can occur at different scales of space, time, and ecological organization.

Species abundances can vary over large spatial and temporal scales. By studying the habitat use of an abundant species, which uses a wide range of habitats, insights can be gained into how seascape-scales might influence population-level patterns. Similarly, temporal scales might affect the dynamics of species that have complex life cycles where migration is involved. Therefore, in the first study I used an eight-year dataset to conduct a population-level study at broader time- and seascape- scales of an abundant species in Tampa Bay, Florida. The goal of this study was to provide the first in-depth study on the habitat use of Pinfish on the eastern Gulf of Mexico and to provide insights on how seascape-scales can influence their abundance and distribution.

Predator-prey interactions can be influenced by habitat at different spatial scales. In seagrass systems, blade density can provide prey refugia at local scales, which are further embedded within the seascape-scale effect of turbidity. In the second study, I used a combination of in situ field experiments and laboratory-controlled experiments to examine and separate the effects of habitat across these local and seascape scales on the relative predation rates of tethered Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboids).

The broad-scale analyses indicated that population-level differences, such as abundance patterns and distribution can be influenced by temporal and spatial scales. Field- studies showed that habitat can influence ecological interactions at local- and seascape- scales. Overall, this research demonstrates the importance of using multiple spatial and temporal scale approaches when studying ecology, especially of those organisms that move over large distances and have complex life histories.

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