Changes in the Elasmobranch Assemblage in a California Estuary

Publication Year:
2018
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Abstract Views 4
Repository URL:
https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/4950
Author(s):
Pien, Catarina
Tags:
environment; estuary; life history; nursery; ray; shark
thesis / dissertation description
Elkhorn Slough is an estuarine system that provides habitat for several elasmobranch species. During the past century, the hydrography and habitat of Elkhorn Slough have dramatically changed. Previous studies suggest shifts in the species composition and habitat usage patterns of elasmobranchs. This study characterizes the elasmobranch species composition, and examines the abiotic conditions associated with differences in distribution by sex and life stage. Elasmobranchs were sampled from 2015 –2016 by longline and gillnet. Bat rays (Myliobatis californicus), leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata), and thornback rays (Platyrhinoidis triseriata) were most commonly observed, and were generally more abundant during the dry seasons and in the mid-slough, where environmental conditions were more similar to those in Monterey Bay. Differences in distribution by sex and life stage were associated with season, zone, and environmental variables including temperature and salinity. Historical analyses indicate that changes in the assemblage occurred over decadal time scales, associated with increases in mudflat habitat and large-scale climatic shifts (i.e., Pacific Decadal Oscillation), indicating that both habitat and climatic changes may continue to influence the estuarine assemblage in the future.