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Forage fish species prefer habitat within designated offshore wind energy areas on the US Northeast Shelf ecosystem

March 27, 2023

As the world develops sources of renewable energy, there is an intensifying interest in offshore wind energy production. The Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf (NES) ecosystem has favorable wind dynamics, with active development of wind energy. In this study, we present species distribution models that consider both occupancy and biomass responses for a broad spectrum of fish and macroinvertebrate taxa (n = 177). Building upon prior analyses, habitat was differentiated into overall and core habitats based on statistical distributions of habitat scores. Overall habitat was used to show each species' regional distribution based on fishery-independent survey captures between 1976 and 2019, whereas core habitat represented where the focus of the species' abundance was located as a subset of overall habitat. Wind energy developments may modify the water column in ways that impact lower-trophic-level productivity; therefore, added attention was given to the response of forage species. Over 20% of species showed preferential use of putative and potential wind development areas, including a disproportionate number of forage taxa. Principal usage varied by season, with forage species like Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus and Atlantic Mackerel Scomber scombrus preferentially using the lease areas in spring and Round Herring Etrumeus teres and longfin inshore squid Doryteuthis pealeii using lease areas in autumn. For species with relatively low usage of the lease areas, there was a tendency for the usage related to overall habitat to be lower than usage for core habitat; in contrast, for species with high usage of the lease areas, that usage was higher for overall habitat than for core habitat. The area of habitat tended to have positive trends across species, with these positive trends being disproportionately higher among forage taxa. These results frame the importance of wind lease areas for species in the NES, particularly forage taxa that fulfill many important ecological functions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Forage fish species prefer habitat within designated offshore wind energy areas on the US Northeast Shelf ecosystem
DOI 10.1002/mcf2.10230
Authors Kevin Friedland, Evan M. Adams, Chandra Goetsch, Julia Gulka, Damien Brady, Everett Rzeszowski, Daniel Crear, Sarah Gaichas, Andrew Gill, M. Conor McManus, Elizabeth T. Methratta, Janelle L. Morano, Michelle Staudinger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science
Index ID 70241886
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center