Spatial Scale, Means and Gradients of Hydrographic Variables Define Pelagic Seascapes of Bluefin and Bullet Tuna Spawning Distribution
Seascape ecology is an emerging discipline focused on understanding how features of the marine habitat influence the spatial distribution of marine species. However, there is still a gap in the development of concepts and techniques for its application in the marine pelagic realm, where there are no clear boundaries delimitating habitats. Here we demonstrate that pelagic seascape metrics defined as a combination of hydrographic variables and their spatial gradients calculated at an appropriate spatial scale, improve our ability to model pelagic fish distribution. We apply the analysis to study the spawning locations of two tuna species: Atlantic bluefin and bullet tuna. These two species represent a gradient in life history strategies. Bluefin tuna has a large body size and is a long-distant migrant, while bullet tuna has a small body size and lives year-round in coastal waters within the Mediterranean Sea. The results show that the models performance incorporating the proposed seascape metrics increases significantly when compared with models that do not consider these metrics. This improvement is more important for Atlantic bluefin, whose spawning ecology is dependent on the local oceanographic scenario, than it is for bullet tuna, which is less influenced by the hydrographic conditions. Our study advances our understanding of how species perceive their habitat and confirms that the spatial scale at which the seascape metrics provide information is related to the spawning ecology and life history strategy of each species.