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Modeling larval Calanus finmarchicus on Georges Bank: time-varying mortality rates and a cannibalism hypothesis

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Throughout the North Atlantic, the copepod Calanus finmarchicus dominates the zooplankton biomass, linking primary production and higher trophic levels. On Georges Bank, the peak abundance of larval (naupliar) stages occurs in March–April and represents a potential source of prey for cod and haddock larvae. Following this maximum, naupliar abundance declines dramatically, reaching a minimum in May and increasing again in June. Explaining the naupliar seasonal cycle is critical for predicting climate effects on C. finmarchicus dynamics, including whether environmental variability may lead to a mismatch with larval fish. Here, an age-within-stage population dynamics model is used to investigate the factors controlling the temporal variation of C. finmarchicus nauplii in three Georges Bank sub-regions. The model incorporates temperature- and food-dependent development and egg production, as well as female abundance derived from the US Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) program. Use of field-estimated constant mortality rates overestimates May abundances by as much as an order of magnitude. These data/model discrepancies can not be explained by temperature or food-limitation effects on physiological rates. Instead, accurate simulation requires use of time-varying early stage mortalities, which differ from published estimates in both magnitude and trend. These mortality rates are correlated with C. finmarchicus female abundance, implying cannibalism as a possible regulatory factor. Thus, the biological control of predation (including cannibalism) must be considered to predict the effects of climate on C. finmarchicus and associated larval fish populations.

Keywords: Calanus finmarchicus; copepod population dynamics; larval mortality; nauplii; stage-based model

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2419.2009.00503.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Engineering Mathematics and Internetworking, Dalhousie University, 1340 Barrington Street, Halifax, NS B3J 1Y9, Canada 2: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, PO Box 1006, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4A2, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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