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Fishing impact amplifies the sensitivity of exploited marine populations to climate variability

Date:
May 16, 2011
Source:
IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía
Summary:
The study shows how the effects of fishing and climate on marine fish populations in the Mediterranean Sea act synergistically and cannot be disentangled. Researchers can show why the effect of climate variations on Mediterranean fish stocks depends on its population structure. The lost of population structure may increase their sensitivity to climate variations.

Merluza fish.
Credit: Image courtesy of IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía

Researchers from the IEO, the University of Oslo and the Institute of Marine Science Leibniz have recently published a study in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series showing why the effect of climate variations on Mediterranean fish stocks depends on its population structure. The lost of population structure may increase their sensitivity to climate variations.

May 16, Palma de Mallorca. Scientists from the Oceanographic Centre of the Balearic Islands of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) in collaboration with the University of Oslo and the Institute of Marine Sciences, Leibniz (IFM-GEOMAR), have shown that the effects of fishing and climate on fish populations are not independent and, therefore, cannot be studied separately as it has been done for long time.

The study, published as feature article in the first volume of April in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, examines the time series of abundance index (catches per fishing boat unit effort) of European hake (Merluccius merluccius) in the Balearic Islands since 1940. This data series, one of the longest in the Mediterranean, contains periodic information on catches and fishing effort, collected in several research projects carried out by the Oceanographic Centre of the Balearic Islands in collaboration with the fishing industry. This time series, which displays a clear oscillatory pattern, was analyzed using hydroclimatic variables along the Balearic Sea area, being the results reproduced by simulations of the population dynamics.

The study shows that, in absence of overexploitation, the fluctuations in the abundance of hake in the Balearic Islands were independent of environmental changes. As the fishing exploitation has been eroding the demographic structure by eliminating individuals of larger size and age, the population has been progressively more dependent on younger individuals, a process known as demographic truncation. In this situation, population depended more on the annual incoming of juveniles from the spawning, a process highly sensitive upon the climate variations known as recruitment. The consequence was the loss of the natural capacity for the population to rely on its own dynamics, increasing, therefore, its sensitivity to environmental changes.

These results have enabled us to understand why extreme changes in hydroclimatic conditions in the western Mediterranean, occurred in the early 80's, caused a sharp decline in hake stocks of hake in the Balearic Islands. The intense overexploitation of the species led to a population mainly supported by juveniles and young spawners, a demographic structure highly sensitive to climate variations.

The conclusions of this study are important for the future management of marine resources. While populations with a healthy demographic structure are easy to manage, the management of populations with an eroded demography is more complicated due to its high dependence upon the unpredictable environmental variability.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M Hidalgo, T Rouyer, JC Molinero, E Massutí, J Moranta, B Guijarro, NC Stenseth. Synergistic effects of fishing-induced demographic changes and climate variation on fish population dynamics. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2011; 426: 1 DOI: 10.3354/meps09077

Cite This Page:

IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía. "Fishing impact amplifies the sensitivity of exploited marine populations to climate variability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516080126.htm>.
IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía. (2011, May 16). Fishing impact amplifies the sensitivity of exploited marine populations to climate variability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516080126.htm
IEO Instituto Español de Oceanografía. "Fishing impact amplifies the sensitivity of exploited marine populations to climate variability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516080126.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

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