Pacific Sand Lance Habitat Suitability Model in the Canadian Salish Sea
Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus) provide critical support to top predators in marine food webs in the near-shore Pacific ecosystem. Knowledge of where this species occurs is poorly understood, preventing adequate conservation. In order to address this knowledge gap we developed a habitat suitability model that identifies locations where intertidal sand lance spawning habitat, essentially beaches, are likely to occur in the BC Salish Sea. The model was developed using observations (n=90) of sand lance spawning (eggs found on beaches) collected by community scientists from the BC Forage Fish Monitoring Network spawning 19 years, and a suite of pre-existing information and models characterizing environmental conditions (e.g. sediment type, estuary presence, slope, fetch etc.). The resulting model allows us to create maps showing areas where spawning habitat is likely and unlikely to occur. These maps can be used to summarize habitat availability, and can be used directly by managers when assessing proposed projects that might impact the habitat. We estimate that only 5.4% (28 km2) of the intertidal zone of the BC Salish Sea is likely to provide suitable intertidal sand lance spawning habitat, of which only 8% (2.4km2) falls within a protected area. In summary, the Pacific sand lance spawning habitat in the Salish Sea is specific, rare, and vulnerable to change.
In the paper (listed below) you can read the nitty-gritty on how they developed the model, how well it performs, and see maps of where the model predicts spawning habitat across various areas in the Salish Sea (most are in the Supplementary Material).
Written and developed by: Jacqueline Huard, Beatrice Proudfoot, Chris Rooper, Tara Martin, & Cliff Robinson