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      Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Exploited Groundfish Species Assemblages Faced to Environmental and Fishing Forcings: Insights from the Mauritanian Exclusive Economic Zone

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          Environmental changes and human activities can have strong impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This study investigates how, from a quantitative point of view, simultaneously both environmental and anthropogenic factors affect species composition and abundance of exploited groundfish assemblages ( i. e. target and non-target species) at large spatio-temporal scales. We aim to investigate (1) the spatial and annual stability of groundfish assemblages, (2) relationships between these assemblages and structuring factors in order to better explain the dynamic of the assemblages’ structure. The Mauritanian Exclusive Economic Zone (MEEZ) is of particular interest as it embeds a productive ecosystem due to upwelling, producing abundant and diverse resources which constitute an attractive socio-economic development. We applied the multi-variate and multi-table STATICO method on a data set consisting of 854 hauls collected during 14-years (1997–2010) from scientific trawl surveys (species abundance), logbooks of industrial fishery (fishing effort), sea surface temperature and chlorophyll a concentration as environmental variables. Our results showed that abiotic factors drove four main persistent fish assemblages. Overall, chlorophyll a concentration and sea surface temperature mainly influenced the structure of assemblages of coastal soft bottoms and those of the offshore near rocky bottoms where upwellings held. While highest levels of fishing effort were located in the northern permanent upwelling zone, effects of this variable on species composition and abundances of assemblages were relatively low, even if not negligible in some years and areas. The temporal trajectories between environmental and fishing conditions and assemblages did not match for all the entire time series analyzed in the MEEZ, but interestingly for some specific years and areas. The quantitative approach used in this work may provide to stakeholders, scientists and fishers a useful assessment for the spatio-temporal dynamics of exploited assemblages under stable or changing conditions in fishing and environment.

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                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                27 October 2015
                : 10
                : 10

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Figures: 9, Tables: 1, Pages: 21
                This work had financial support in the form of grants (four stays in Aix-Marseille University) by the Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Researches and Fisheries (IMROP) and the Department of Cooperation and Cultural Action (SCAC) of the Embassy of France in Mauritania. SOK has received funding during these four stays in Aix-Marseille Université. The data were collected by the Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Researches and Fisheries and allowed their publications.
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                All relevant data and R script used are available as Supporting Information files.



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