Journal Article

Habitat association of plaice, sole, and lemon sole in the English Channel

Hilmar Hinz, Melanie Bergmann, Richard Shucksmith, Michel J. Kaiser and Stuart I. Rogers

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 63, issue 5, pages 912-927
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Habitat association of plaice, sole, and lemon sole in the English Channel

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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Flatfish have been the subject of scientific research since the beginning of the 19th century, but information on specific habitat requirements of adult life stages is incomplete. This study investigates the association between benthic habitat and the adult life stage of three flatfish species (plaice, sole, and lemon sole). Data from groundfish surveys spanning nine years were used to identify three distinct site groups: sites where a species was consistently abundant, sites of variable or low abundance, and sites at which no fish were caught. We hypothesize that these three site groups should represent a gradient in habitat suitability from highly suitable to unsuitable. Habitat parameters for each site group and species are described and analysed. Besides large-scale physical parameters, the importance of structuring epifauna and prey availability was investigated. Plaice and sole showed similar trends for most abiotic parameters, whereas lemon sole was found over distinctly different habitats. Sediment associations differed between the three species. No clear association was found between flatfish abundance, structuring epifauna, and prey availability within this study. Contradictory results between prey abundance assessed by grab samples and the nutritive state of plaice suggested that the sampling scale used might have been inappropriate to determine prey availability accurately. Plaice appear to sample prey more effectively at the appropriate spatial scales, so the nutritive state of the fish might be a more reliable indicator for prey availability and thus habitat quality.

Keywords: emergent epifauna; English Channel; flatfish; habitat selection; prey availability; stomach contents

Journal Article.  9157 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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