Smith Joseph M.

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Joseph M.

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  • Article
    Discontinuities concentrate mobile predators : quantifying organism–environment interactions at a seascape scale
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2016-02-26) Kennedy, Cristina G. ; Mather, Martha E. ; Smith, Joseph M. ; Finn, John T. ; Deegan, Linda A.
    Understanding environmental drivers of spatial patterns is an enduring ecological problem that is critical for effective biological conservation. Discontinuities (ecologically meaningful habitat breaks), both naturally occurring (e.g., river confluence, forest edge, drop-off) and anthropogenic (e.g., dams, roads), can influence the distribution of highly mobile organisms that have land- or seascape scale ranges. A geomorphic discontinuity framework, expanded to include ecological patterns, provides a way to incorporate important but irregularly distributed physical features into organism–environment relationships. Here, we test if migratory striped bass (Morone saxatilis) are consistently concentrated by spatial discontinuities and why. We quantified the distribution of 50 acoustically tagged striped bass at 40 sites within Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts during four-monthly surveys relative to four physical discontinuities (sandbar, confluence, channel network, drop-off), one continuous physical feature (depth variation), and a geographic location variable (region). Despite moving throughout the estuary, striped bass were consistently clustered in the middle geographic region at sites with high sandbar area, close to channel networks, adjacent to complex confluences, with intermediate levels of bottom unevenness, and medium sized drop-offs. In addition, the highest striped bass concentrations occurred at sites with the greatest additive physical heterogeneity (i.e., where multiple discontinuities co-occurred). The need to incorporate irregularly distributed features in organism–environment relationships will increase as high-quality telemetry and GIS data accumulate for mobile organisms. The spatially explicit approach we used to address this challenge can aid both researchers who seek to understand the impact of predators on ecosystems and resource managers who require new approaches for biological conservation.
  • Article
    What happens in an estuary doesn't stay there : patterns of biotic connectivity resulting from long term ecological research
    (The Oceanography Society, 2013-09) Mather, Martha E. ; Finn, John T. ; Kennedy, Cristina G. ; Deegan, Linda A. ; Smith, Joseph M.
    The paucity of data on migratory connections and an incomplete understanding of how mobile organisms use geographically separate areas have been obstacles to understanding coastal dynamics. Research on acoustically tagged striped bass (Morone saxatilis) at the Plum Island Ecosystems (PIE) Long Term Ecological Research site, Massachusetts, documents intriguing patterns of biotic connectivity (i.e., long-distance migration between geographically distinct areas). First, the striped bass tagged at PIE migrated southward along the coast using different routes. Second, these tagged fish exhibited strong fidelity and specificity to PIE. For example, across multiple years, tagged striped bass resided in PIE waters for an average of 1.5–2.5 months per year (means: 51–72 days; range 2–122 days), left this estuary in fall, then returned in subsequent years. Third, this specificity and fidelity connected PIE to other locations. The fish exported nutrients and energy to at least three other coastal locations through biomass added as growth. These results demonstrate that what happens in an individual estuary can affect other estuaries. Striped bass that use tightly connected routes to feed in specific estuaries should have greater across-system impacts than fish that are equally likely to go anywhere. Consequently, variations in when, where, and how fish migrate can alter across-estuary impacts.