Invasive species may exhibit higher levels of growth and reproduction when environmental conditions are most suitable, and thus their effects on native fauna may be intensified. Understanding potential impacts of these species, especially in the nascent stages of a biological invasion, requires critical information concerning spatial and temporal distributions of habitat suitability. Using empirically supported environmental variables (e.g., temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, rugosity, and benthic substrate), our models predicted habitat suitability for the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in Biscayne Bay, Florida. The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a platform for the modeling process allowed us to quantify correlations between temporal (seasonal) fluctuations in the above variables and the spatial distribution of five discrete habitat quality classes, whose ranges are supported by statistical deviations from the apparent best conditions described in prior studies. Analysis of the resulting models revealed little fluctuation in spatial extent of the five habitat classes on a monthly basis. Class 5, which represented the area with environmental variables closest to the best conditions for lionfish, occupied approximately one-third of Biscayne Bay, with subsequent habitats declining in area. A key finding from this study was that habitat suitability increased eastward from the coastline, where higher quality habitats were adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and displayed marine levels of ambient water quality. Corroboration of the models with sightings from the USGS-NAS database appeared to support our findings by nesting 79 % of values within habitat class 5; however, field testing (i.e., lionfish surveys) is necessary to confirm the relationship between habitat classes and lionfish distribution.
- Biscayne Bay
- Habitat suitability modeling
- Invasive species
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics