American, habitat, shad, spawning, suitability
Journal or Book Title
Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Habitat suitability index models for American shad Alosa sapidissima were developed by Stier and Crance in 1985. These models, which were based on a combination of published information and expert opinion, are often used to make decisions about hydropower dam operations and fish passage. The purpose of this study was to develop updated habitat suitability index models for spawning American shad in the southeastern United States, building on the many field and laboratory studies completed since 1985. We surveyed biologists who had knowledge about American shad spawning grounds, assembled a panel of experts to discuss important habitat variables, and used raw data from published and unpublished studies to develop new habitat suitability curves. The updated curves are based on resource selection functions, which can model habitat selectivity based on use and availability of particular habitats. Using field data collected in eight rivers from Virginia to Florida (Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Cape Fear, Pee Dee, St. Johns), we obtained new curves for temperature, current velocity, and depth that were generally similar to the original models. Our new suitability function for substrate was also similar to the original pattern, except that sand (optimal in the original model) has a very low estimated suitability. The Bayesian approach that we used to develop habitat suitability curves provides an objective framework for updating the model as new studies are completed and for testing the model’s applicability in other parts of the species’ range.