Environmental and anthropogenic influences on spatiotemporal dynamics of Alosa in Chesapeake Bay tributaries


American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), Hickory Shad (A. mediocris), and river herrings (Alewife A. pseudoharengus and Blueback Herring A. aestivalis) are anadromous pelagic fishes, which as adults spend most of the annual cycle at sea, but enter the coastal rivers in spring to spawn. Once as one of the most valuable fisheries along the Atlantic coast, Alosa populations have declined in recent decades and current populations are at historic lows. Various management actions have been conducted to restore the populations, and stocks in different river systems display different demographic trends. Demonstration of synthetic diagnostics on the factors impacting these populations is important to better conserve this species group. We developed a Bayesian hierarchical spatiotemporal model to identify the population trends of these species among rivers in the Chesapeake Bay based on results of surveys conducted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Maryland Department of Natural Resources and to identify environmental and anthropogenic factors influencing their distribution and abundance. The hierarchical model structure helped to diagnose river-specific population trends and impacts of surrounding factors, and decrease uncertainties in rivers with less samples available. The results demonstrate river-specific heterogeneity of spatiotemporal dynamics of these species and indicate river-specific impacts of multiple factors, including water temperature, river flow, chlorophyll a concentration, and total phosphorus concentration, on their population dynamics. Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and Gulf Stream meanders displayed significant influence on the inter-annual trends of Alosa species in rivers with more data available. The results would help to develop river- and species-specific management strategies to recover these species.

Alosa, Bayesian hierarchical model, climate oscillations, environmental and anthropogenic influence, river-specific heterogeneity, spatiotemporal dynamics