SpaceShift: Drivers and effects of spatial shifts in early life stages of marine fish

About the project

Understanding the mechanisms behind the large fluctuations in the recruitment to many harvested fish stocks remains a key challenge in fisheries science. We will here throw new light on these mechanisms by studying the interlinkage between spatial and temporal dynamics using a combination of state-of-the-art statistical and biophysical modelling approaches.

In particular, we address the hypothesis that loss of old and large spawners from heavily exploited fish stocks leads to a contracted spatial and temporal distribution of spawning and fish offspring, which reduces the buffering of offspring survival against adverse environmental conditions. We will first quantify how the spatial distributions of fish eggs are influenced by the combination of climate and demographic structure of spawners.

We will subsequently assess how climate and spatial distribution influence the match or mismatch between fish larvae and zooplankton prey and growth and survival of fish through early life. Hence we will map how survival of fish eggs to recruitment depends on location. With that basis, we will assess how climate and demography influence recruitment and population dynamics, through effects on spatial distribution of fish offspring and spatiotemporal patterns in growth and survival of the offspring. Main focus will be on Barents Sea cod, haddock and capelin. These stocks are the world's largest of their species and of high ecological and socioeconomic importance.

Moreover, long-term Russian and Norwegian surveys provide unique empirical information on their dynamics in early life stages. Our combination of statistical and biophysical modelling approaches take full advantage of this information and aim to identify relationships that are backed up both by the spatiotemporal observation data and a clear, mechanistic understanding of the underlying processes. Hence, we expect to obtain insight into recruitment dynamics that are of wide, general interest.


A schematic overview of the SpaceShift Project.

Full size image of overview


Primary objective: Improve our understanding of how climate and demographic structure of spawners influence fish populations through effects on spatial distribution and dynamics in early life stages.

Secondary objectives: (i) Quantify effects of climate and spawner age and size composition on spatial distributions of fish eggs. (ii) Quantify role of spatial distribution for match-mismatch between fish larvae and their zooplankton prey. (iii) Quantify role of spatial distribution for growth-survival relationships through early life. (iv) Assess implications of changes in climate and demographic structure of spawners for population dynamics.


National partners:

University of Oslo, Dept. biosciences, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES): Leif Chr. Stige (PI), Nils Chr. Stenseth (co-PI), Kristina Ø. Kvile, Joël M. Durant, Øystein Langangen. 

Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Bergen: Bjarte Bogstad, Morten D. Skogen, Frode B. Vikebø, PhD Clarissa Akemi Kajiya Endo

International participants:

Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO), Murmansk: Natalia Yaragina.

University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS), Seattle, USA: Jan Ohlberger.

Oregon State University (OSU), Corvallis, USA: Lorenzo Ciannelli.


This Project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) (MARINFORSK)

RCN Project Number: 280468 (Project data bank at RCN)

UiO Project Number: 144690


30.06.2018 - 31.12.2021

Published Jan. 21, 2021 2:22 PM - Last modified Feb. 2, 2021 10:33 AM