Abstract Larval and early juvenile fishes were sampled from the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) shelf during summer from 1996 to 2000. Data from these collections were used to examine spatial and temporal patterns in species assemblage structure and abundance. Cluster analyses based on Bray–Curtis dissimilarity coefficients were used to group species and stations according to similar abundance and species composition. Ordination techniques were used to verify groupings, and a non-parametric stepwise procedure using a Spearman correlation coefficient (BIO-ENV) was used to relate groupings to predominant environmental variables. These approaches revealed a pattern of station groupings that were generally related to bathymetry in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000, although no obvious relationship to geographic boundaries was observed in 1998. Significant differences in species associations were observed in 1997 and 1998, and depressions in abundance were also noted among many species between 1997 and 1999. A regional, full primitive equation model was used to simulate float trajectories on the EBS shelf in each year to better relate fish distributional observations to prevailing current patterns. Model results indicated general variations in flow in several years, although 1998 stood out with stronger northeast flow than in any of the other years examined. Observed disruptions of larval and early juvenile fish assemblages could be related to the strong El-Niño event of 1997–98 in the EBS. If this idea is confirmed, our study suggests that larval and juvenile fish are sensitive and respond relatively quickly (1–2 yr) to environmental perturbations, and as such, may be timely indicators of environmental change.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-6349, USA 2:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-6349, USA