Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 341–348 | Cite as

Is it possible to identify habitat for a rare species? Shortjaw Cisco (Coregonus zenithicus) in Lake Huron as a case study



The Government of Canada is considering a recommendation by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to list shortjaw cisco (Coregonus zenithicus) as “Threatened” throughout its range under the Species At Risk Act (SARA). If the listing is approved, shortjaw cisco will receive legal protection, including protection for its ‘critical habitat.’ This study focused on habitat characteristics associated with specimens identified as shortjaw cisco collected with targeted sampling in Lake Huron of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Competing habitat-use models were developed using available data for three physical habitat variables: Water Depth, Substrate Slope, and Cliff Distance, and the models were evaluated using binary logistic regression and ranking of Akaike information criteria. For the habitat factors examined, Water Depth was the most important variable for explaining the observed distribution of identified shortjaw cisco, although this factor alone was not sufficient to adequately represent habitat for this taxonomically uncertain and rare animal. Future habitat discrimination for this hypothesized species at risk must be based on (a) reduction of taxonomic uncertainty, (b) expansion of sampling effort, and (c) consideration of additional physical and ecological habitat factors.


Coregoninae Cisco Laurentian Great Lakes Species at risk Critical habitat Endangered Threatened Model selection Uncertainty 



Special thanks to the Chief, Council and Community of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation for the opportunity to work with them on this research project. We are indebted to Scott Parker and Jeff Truscott (Fathom Five National Marine Park, Parks Canada) for support in project administration, conceptual development and data management/analysis. Bill Harford (Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation) and Tom Nudds (University of Guelph) provided essential scholarly advice in all phases of research program planning and execution. Nick Mandrak, Tom Pratt (Fisheries & Oceans Canada) and Tom Todd (U.S. Geological Survey) shared their expertise with Great Lakes deepwater coregonine taxonomy, ecology and habitat requirements. Adam Bonnycastle (Geography Department, University of Guelph) provided GIS troubleshooting services, Katreena Baker provided invaluable editing assistance, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments to refine an earlier draft of the manuscript. Financial support for this study was provided by the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Parks Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First NationWiartonCanada

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