A spatial analytical approach for selecting reintroduction sites for burbot in English rivers


Tom Worthington, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, U.S.A.
E-mail: tomworthington@talk21.com


1. Availability of suitable habitat is a prerequisite for species reintroduction success, and to ensure population persistence, investigations of a species’ habitat utilisation throughout its life history should be conducted as part of a feasibility study.

2. Habitat utilisation models for burbot, Lota lota, developed using data from field studies conducted in France and Germany and information from the literature were used to assess the feasibility of reintroducing burbot into rivers of its former native range in eastern England.

3. Per cent tree roots, aquatic vegetation and flow types were important predictors of adult burbot abundance. Furthermore, the habitat utilisation models were supplemented with information from the literature, which suggested that off-channel habitat such as wetlands and backwaters is important for spawning and nursery stages.

4. An assessment of the habitat availability in the rivers of the burbot’s former native range using variables related to spawning and nursery and adult life stages showed that although adult habitat was widely distributed, the availability of spawning and nursery habitat was less abundant, potentially limiting successful reestablishment.

5. Potential suitable habitat was concentrated in the central and southern areas of the species’ former English distribution. Overall, rivers of the burbot’s former range potentially afford suitable habitat to sustain a reintroduced population. However, sites should be preferentially selected on the basis of having appropriate spawning and nursery areas.