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The role of oceanographic conditions and plankton availability in larval fish assemblages off the Catalan coast (NW Mediterranean)

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In the northwestern Mediterranean, most fish species reproduce in early summer and fewer in the autumn mixing period. This study analyses and compares larval fish assemblages (LFA) in both seasons, and is the first attempt to characterize LFA structure for the autumn period. We analyze horizontal and vertical distribution of fish larvae and the micro- and mesozooplankton biomass and abundance of the main zooplankton groups. The oceanographic situation was analyzed through the study of data from CTD, Nν-Shuttle and ADCP surveys. LFA were determined by ordination analyses based on larval abundance, and the relationships between larval assemblages and environmental variables were investigated through canonical correspondence analysis. The importance of some hydrographic variables (temperature, salinity and stability of the water column), current fields (along-shelf and across-shelf transport) and the abundance of zooplankton are discussed as important factors shaping the structure of larval assemblages. In early summer, LFA were mainly structured by a combination of bathymetry and trophic components, although sea surface temperature also played a role in shaping the horizontal larval distributions. In autumn, trophic variables were the main factors influencing the shelf-dwelling species assemblage. Larvae of oceanic species, on the other hand, were not related to trophic variables but were more affected by current fields.
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Keywords: diversity; fish larvae; horizontal distribution; larval transport; temporal variability; vertical distribution; zooplankton

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC). Passeig Marítim 37-49. Barcelona 08003, Spain 2: Departamento de Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Universidad del País Vasco, Campus de Leioa, Barrio Sarriena s/n, 48940 Leioa, Spain

Publication date: 01 May 2010

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