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Tuesday, January 26 • 11:00am - 11:20am
Using Ecological Niche Modelling To Predict The Presence of Unionid Refuges After 25 Years of Dreissena Invasion In The Laurentian Great Lakes

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AUTHORS: Jonathan M. Bossenbroek, University of Toledo; Lyubov E. Burlakova, SUNY Buffalo State; Todd. C. Crail, University of Toledo; Alexander Y. Karatayev, SUNY Buffalo State; Robert A. Krebs, Cleveland State University; David T. Zanatta, Central Michigan University

ABSTRACT: Unionid mussels are one of the most imperiled faunal groups in North America. Despite the presence of dreissenid mussels for 25 years, a few populations have been found in Lakes Erie and St. Clair. Key habitat characteristics that enable unionids to persist in dreissenid-infested lakes are uncertain, and there is limited knowledge of extant unionid communities within Lake Ontario. Thus, our goal was to predict undiscovered refugia in Lake Ontario, and to conduct surveys to test those predictions. Our objectives were to: 1) Use regional scale GIS data and the locations of Lake Erie unionid populations to create an ecological niche model that predicts locations in Lake Ontario that have a high probability of having unionid communities, and 2) Test model predictions by sampling high probability locations within Lake Ontario. The niche model consisted of a suite of environmental variables developed to assess near shore habitats of fish in Lake Erie. The three variables that had the highest contribution to the final niche model were bathymetry, fetch and shoreline geomorphology, of which the category ‘Semi-Protected Wetlands’ was the most important shoreline category. The niche model predicted that 0.8% of the near-shore habitat in Lake Ontario is good habitat for unionids, which was verified by comparison to survey results at 34 locations. Surveys of Lake Ontario found 1800 unionids of 11 species, from which we found a positive relationship between model predictions and the number of species at a location (p = 0.004, adj. r2 = 0.14). Thus, the use of an ecological niche model aided discovery of unionid refugia in the Great Lakes.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 11:00am - 11:20am EST
Vandenberg B