Various mechanisms of habitat choice in fishes based on food and/or temperature have been proposed: optimal foraging for food alone; behavioral thermoregulation for temperature alone; and behavioral energetics and discounted matching for food and temperature combined. Along with development of habitat choice mechanisms, there has been a major push to develop and apply to fish populations individual-based models that incorporate various forms of these mechanisms. However, it is not known how the wide variation in observed and hypothesized mechanisms of fish habitat choice could alter fish population predictions (e.g. growth, size distributions, etc.). We used spatially explicit, individual-based modeling to compare predicted fish populations using different submodels of patch choice behavior under various food and temperature distributions. We compared predicted growth, temperature experience, food consumption, and final spatial distribution using the different models. Our results demonstrated that the habitat choice mechanism assumed in fish population modeling simulations was critical to predictions of fish distribution and growth rates. Hence, resource managers who use modeling results to predict fish population trends should be very aware of and understand the underlying patch choice mechanisms used in their models to assure that those mechanisms correctly represent the fish populations being modeled.
Additional publication details
Importance of the habitat choice behavior assumed when modeling the effects of food and temperature on fish populations