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Keywords:

  • Aegean Sea;
  • generalized additive models;
  • salinity;
  • sediment;
  • substrate;
  • temperature

Abstract

Generalized additive models (GAMs) were applied to investigate the influence of spatial (subarea), temporal (season) and environmental variables (substrate characteristics, depth, temperature and salinity) on the relative abundance of 27 demersal species of commercial importance in the Aegean Sea. Twelve species exhibited decreasing population density with increasing depth, whereas the abundance of the remaining species peaked at intermediate depths. Most of the species were mainly distributed on the continental shelf and upper continental slope. The dry weight percentage of sand in the sediment was included as an important predictor in the best models of all species with a lifecycle closely related to the substrate (flatfish, skates, gurnards, mullets, anglers, scorpionfish) and in most benthopelagic species (seven of 12). The weight percentage of carbonates in the sediment was also included in the best models of most species (19 of 27). Seasonal patterns in the relative abundance of species were observed, related in most cases to the seasonal differentiation of temperature and salinity gradients. During the period of water stratification (summer and autumn) the influence of temperature or salinity on fish abundance was always greater than during the period of vertical mixing (winter). The present results are discussed in the light of fostering the current perception as to factors influencing the spatiotemporal distribution of fish, which is a prerequisite for the sustainable exploitation of commercial stocks.