Bottom-up effects of climate on fish populations: Data from the continuous plankton recorder

Sophie G. Pitois, Christopher P. Lynam, Teunis Jansen, Nick Halliday, Martin Edwards

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) dataset on fish larvae has an extensive spatio-temporal coverage that allows the responses of fish populations to past changes in climate variability, including abrupt changes such as regime shifts, to be investigated. The newly available dataset offers a unique opportunity to investigate long-term changes over decadal scales in the abundance and distribution of fish larvae in relation to physical and biological factors. A principal component analysis (PCA) using 7 biotic and abiotic parameters is applied to investigate the impact of environmental changes in the North Sea on 5 selected taxa of fish larvae during the period 1960 to 2004. The analysis revealed 4 periods of time (1960-1976; 1977-1982; 1983-1996; 1997-2004) reflecting 3 different ecosystem states. The larvae of clupeids, sandeels, dab and gadoids seemed to be affected mainly by changes in the plankton ecosystem, while the larvae of migratory species such as Atlantic mackerel responded more to hydrographic changes. Climate variability seems more likely to influence fish populations through bottom-up control via a cascading effect from changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) impacting on the hydrodynamic features of the North Sea, in turn impacting on the plankton available as prey for fish larvae. The responses and adaptability of fish larvae to changing environmental conditions, particularly to changes in prey availability, are complex and species-specific. This complexity is enhanced with fishing effects interacting with climate effects and this study supports furthering our understanding of such interactions before attempting to predict how fish populations respond to climate variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-186
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2012


  • Climate change
  • Continuous Plankton Recorder
  • CPR
  • First feeding
  • Fish larvae
  • North Sea ecosystem

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