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Wind‐induced variability in coastal larval retention areas: a case study on Western Baltic spring‐spawning herring

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The investigation of larval dispersal and retention, their variability and dependence on wind conditions, has become a major topic in fisheries research owing to potential effects on stock recruitment and stock structuring. The present study quantifies the wind‐induced variability of larval retention of herring in a highly productive coastal lagoon of the Western Baltic Sea. This lagoon, the Greifswalder Bodden, represents the main spawning area of Western Baltic Spring‐Spawning Herring, a stock that has recently undergone a continuous decline in recruitment. The study tests whether this decline was related to changes in larval retention, more precisely to changes in wind conditions, the main forcing of the lagoon's circulation. To answer this, a model approach was applied. Larvae were tracked as Lagrangian drifters under constant and variable wind conditions, examining the main drift patterns and reconstructing the incidents during the period of recruitment decline. For the latter, weekly cohorts of virtual larvae were released in the lagoon over the entire spawning period (April–June; >16 weeks). The fraction of retained larvae per cohort was related to observed larval abundances. On this basis, a new retention index was defined to evaluate the annual larval retention. The results presented cannot explain the observed recruitment decline but characterize the lagoon as an important larval retention area by virtue of unsteady wind conditions that prevent a steady outflow of larvae.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-09-01

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