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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Salish Sea Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus) spawning habitat distribution, population trajectory, and threats Huard, Jacqueline


Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus) are a small forage fish that play a significant role in the nearshore ecosystems of the Salish Sea, a highly biodiverse and densely populated inland sea in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Despite this important role, sand lance are data deficient. Little information about the species' habitat distribution, population status, and the threats it faces are available across their entire range making management and policy decisions difficult. Concerned conservation organizations and scientists throughout the Salish Sea, have been gathering observations of sand lance and other forage fish species since 2001. Increasing participation in community science surveys for intertidal Pacific sand lance spawning habitat has resulted in the detection of eggs on >90 beaches in the Canadian Salish Sea between 2001 and 2021. Using these data, I developed a Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) habitat suitability model and found that less than 6% of the intertidal zone of the Canadian Salish Sea is likely to provide suitable spawning habitat for sand lance. To better understand how to conserve this species and their limited and rare habitat, I worked with 38 experts to conduct a population and vulnerability assessment for Salish Sea sand lance via a three-part structured expert elicitation. Under ‘business as usual’ the survey results suggest sand lance populations are in decline and impacts associated with climate change, pollution, and human development consistently ranked as the highest threats of concern.

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