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Climate warming is changing the timing of among others the reproduction for plankton or fish. Predators depend on an abundant prey supply to feed their young and insure that they survive. When the timing of the prey and the predator are not in synchrony the predator young cannot feed and are dying: there is a mismatch.
The Atlantic cod is one of the major predator in the Barents Sea estimated to consume over 5 million tonnes of fish in 2017. In a recent paper (Holt et al. 2019) we explore the diet of this species using a unique dataset encompassing 33 years of cod stomach sampling by Russian and Norwegian scientists. This time-series is the most comprehensive available cod diet dataset to date and is crucial in helping to answer ecologically important questions on what cod eat and why it matters for predator-prey and food-web dynamics in the Barents Sea ecosystem.
Where the fish are spawning is of tremendous importance for the population (see our post) but also for the industry relying on it, especially since harvesting is often concentrated on fish that aggregate for to spawn. Climate change and harvesting are known to strongly affect the fish population with effect on the spawning location. In a recent paper (Langangen et al. Global Change Biology) we explore the question: “who is the culprit of spawning location change: Climate or fishing?”
Spawning migration is a prevalent phenomenon for the major fish stocks in the Barents Sea. While many of them migrate to the coast of Norway to spawn they are doing so to different areas. We have studied the Northeast Arctic haddock variability in spawning grounds to understand what drives the observed shifts over time.
In a study recently published in Ecology we find apparent competition between major zooplankton groups in a large marine ecosystem. Apparent competition is an indirect, negative interaction between two species or species groups mediated by a third species other than their prey.
Mass mortality events are events that cause elevated mortality that may reduce the population size over a short period. Such events are likely on the rise across the globe and for several taxa (Fey et al. 2015). We recently investigated how such events may affect the community of interacting species in the Barents Sea. For this investigation, we constructed a multi-species model of a key component of the Barents Sea ecosystem consisting of fish and zooplankton
It is notoriously difficult to estimate mortality rates for zooplankton populations in the open ocean. In a new paper, Kvile and colleagues demonstrate that mortality estimation can be improved using a statistical regression approach (SRA) that takes into account advection and spatiotemporal trends in recruitment. Using this method on Calanus finmarchicus survey data from the Norwegian Sea–Barents Sea, they find indications of increased mortality for the oldest copepodite stage pair (CIV–CV), possibly reflecting higher predation pressure on larger copepodites.
A recently paper published in PNAS, members of the CEES Marine Group explore potential climate effects on Calanus finmarchicus, a key zooplankton species in the North Atlantic. The paper shows how the combination of shallow mixed-layer-depth and increased wind apparently increases chlorophyll biomass in spring, and in turn C. finmarchicus biomass in summer. These findings strongly suggest bottom-up effects of food availability on zooplankton, and highlight the need to consider climate effects “beyond temperature” when projecting zooplankton dynamics under climate change.
Many marine fishes experience tremendous mortality during their first months of life. Understanding the causes of this mortality and why it varies from year to year has challenged fisheries ecologists for more than a century. Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that many fishes have free-floating larvae. It is therefore difficult to follow a group of fish larvae over time in the field and investigate which factors cause mortality.
Since Hjort’s ground-breaking work, it is admitted that the survival from the egg to the first reproduction is an essential factor affecting the dynamics of fish populations (see post). Human activities around spawning ground may have an effect on the mortality of the younger age. One of such potentially risky activity is oil exploitation which is on the increase in the northern areas.
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian oceanographer and biologist Johan Hjort’s ground-breaking work, Fluctuations in the great fisheries of northern Europe, viewed in the light of biological research. This anniversary was commemorated with a special issue of ICES Journal of Marine Science.
Increased sea temperature due to climate change can influence the distribution, abundance and seasonal timing of zooplankton. Changing zooplankton dynamics might in turn impact the higher trophic levels, such as fish and seabirds, feeding on these animals. In a recent paper, we show that temperature variation in the Atlantic waters of the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea might have stronger effects on the abundance of the younger than older development stages of Calanus finmarchicus, and that these stages might appear earlier in spring during warm years.
Short supplies of adequate nesting sites and food resources are often associated in discussions of the ultimate factors controlling seabird population size, distribution and breeding success. Shift of prey distribution may affect the interaction between seabirds breeding at the same site.
Statistical analyses of long-term monitoring data reveal an inverse relationship between the biomasses of zooplankton and plankton-eating fish, but only in the northern and central parts of the Barents Sea. In the southwestern Barents Sea, so such relationship is found.
Understanding the interaction between species is particularly actual in marine systems where ecosystem approach of management is desirable. This is particularly the case in high latitude systems such as the Barents Sea where climate change effect is supposed to be the strongest.
Mortality of pelagic eggs and larvae of marine fish is often assumed to be constant both in space and time due to lacking information. This may, however, be a gross oversimplification, as early life stages are likely to experience large variations in mortality both in time and space.