Resolving the effect of climate change on fish populations

A.D. Rijnsdorp, M.A. Peck, G.H. Engelhard, C. Möllmann, J.K. Pinnegar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

533 Citations (Scopus)


This paper develops a framework for the study of climate on fish populations based on first principles of physiology, ecology, and available observations. Environmental variables and oceanographic features that are relevant to fish and that are likely to be affected by climate change are reviewed. Working hypotheses are derived from the differences in the expected response of different species groups. A review of published data on Northeast Atlantic fish species representing different biogeographic affinities, habitats, and body size lends support to the hypothesis that global warming results in a shift in abundance and distribution (in patterns of occurrence with latitude and depth) of fish species. Pelagic species exhibit clear changes in seasonal migration patterns related to climate-induced changes in zooplankton productivity. Lusitanian species have increased in recent decades (sprat, anchovy, and horse mackerel), especially at the northern limit of their distribution areas, while Boreal species decreased at the southern limit of their distribution range (cod and plaice), but increased at the northern limit (cod). Although the underlying mechanisms remain uncertain, available evidence suggests climate-related changes in recruitment success to be the key process, stemming from either higher production or survival in the pelagic egg or larval stage, or owing to changes in the quality/quantity of nursery habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1570-1583
Number of pages14
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009

Cite this