Both the Norwegian Spring Spawning herring (Clupea harengus) and the Northeast Arctic (NEA) cod (Gadus morhua) are examples of strong stock reduction and decline of the associated fisheries due to overfishing followed by a recovery. Cod and herring are both part of the Barents Sea ecosystem, which has experienced major warming events in the early (1920–1940) and late 20th century. While the collapse or near collapse of these stocks seems to be linked to an instability created by overfishing and climate, the difference of population dynamics before and after is not fully understood. In particular, it is unclear how the changes in population dynamics before and after the collapses are associated with biotic interactions. The combination of the availability of unique long-term time series for herring and cod makes it a well-suited study system to investigate the effects of collapse. We examine how species interactions may differently affect the herring and cod population dynamic before and after a collapse. Particularly we explore, using a GAM modeling approach, how herring could affect cod and vice versa. We found that the effect of cod biomass on herring that was generally positive (i.e., covariation) but the effect became negative after the collapse (i.e., predation or competition). Likewise a change occurred for the cod, the juvenile herring biomass that had no effect before the collapse had a negative effect after. Our results indicate that the population collapses may alter the inter-specific interactions and response to abiotic environmental changes. While the stocks are at similar abundance levels before and after the collapses, the system is potentially different in its functioning and may require different management action.
Ecology and Evolution
First published: 1 December 2021
Vol. 11, Issue 23, Pages 16993-17004
1 Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
2 Section for Aquatic biology and toxicology (AQUA), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway