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Ecosystem changes and the effects on capelin (Mallotus villosus), a major forage species

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Abstract:

Capelin (Mallotus villosus), an important forage and commercial fish in the Northwest Atlantic, has exhibited dramatic changes in its biology during the 1990s, coincident with extreme oceanographic conditions and the collapse of major groundfish stocks. Commercial exploitation has not been a serious factor influencing the population biology of capelin in the area. The overall consumption of capelin has declined as predator stock abundances have changed. Data on plankton are sparse, but there appears to have been a decline in zooplankton abundance during the 1990s, and at the same time, a phytoplankton index increased. The impact of the changes in the physical environment has been the subject of previous studies and these are reviewed. The relative impacts of four factors, commercial exploitation, predation, food availability, and the physical environment, on the changes in capelin biology are discussed in the context of capelin as a single species and in the context of the ecosystem. The overall patterns suggest the existence of a "trophic cascade" within the distributional range of capelin in the Northwest Atlantic during the 1990s primarily driven by declines in major finfish predators.

Dans les années 1990, on a observé chez le capelan (Mallotus villosus), important poisson fourrage et commercial dans l'Atlantique nord-ouest, des changements spectaculaires de la biologie, ce qui coïncidait avec des conditions océanographiques extrêmes et avec l'effondrement des grands stocks de poisson de fond. L'exploitation commerciale n'est pas un facteur qui influe de façon importante sur la biologie du capelan dans cette région. La consommation globale de capelan a baissé avec les changements survenus dans l'abondance des stocks de prédateurs. Les données sur le plancton sont maigres, mais il semble s'être produit une baisse de l'abondance du zooplancton dans les années 1990, tandis que l'indice du phytoplancton était à la hausse. L'impact des modifications du milieu physique ont fait l'objet de diverses études, que nous recensons. Nous examinons les impacts relatifs de quatre facteurs : exploitation commerciale, prédation, disponibilité de la nourriture et milieu physique, sur les changements dans la biologie du capelan, dans le contexte de l'espèce elle-même et dans celui de l'écosystème. Les patrons d'ensemble font ressortir l'existence dans les années 1990, dans l'aire de distribution du capelan de l'Atlantique nord-ouest, d'une « cascade trophique » régie principalement par la baisse des principaux stocks de poissons prédateurs.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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