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Trophic interactions affecting a key ecosystem component: a multistage analysis of the recruitment of the Barents Sea capelin (Mallotus villosus)

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The Barents Sea stock of capelin (Mallotus villosus) has suffered three major collapses (>90% reduction) since 1985 due to recruitment failures. As capelin is a key species in the area, these population collapses have had major ecosystem consequences. By analysing data on spawner biomass and three recruitment stages (larvae, 0-group, and 1-year-olds), we suggest that much of the recruitment failures are caused by predation from herring (Clupea harengus) and 0-group and adult Northeast Arctic cod (Gadus morhua). Recruitment is furthermore positively correlated with sea temperatures in winter and spring. Harvesting of maturing capelin on their way to the spawning grounds reduced the abundance of larvae significantly, but this reduction to a large extent is compensated for later in life, as mortality is strongly density-dependent between the larval stage and age 1. Altogether, our study indicates a very high importance of trophic interactions, consistent with similar findings in other high-latitude marine ecosystems.

Le stock des capelans (Mallotus villosus) de la mer de Barents a connu trois importants effondrements (réduction de >90 %) depuis 1985, à cause d'échecs du recrutement. Parce que le capelan est une espèce essentielle dans la région, ces effondrements démographiques ont eu des conséquences majeures sur l’écosystème. Après une analyse des données de biomasse des reproducteurs et de celles des trois stades du recrutement (larves, poissons d’âge 0 et poissons d’un an), nous croyons qu’une partie importante de l’échec du recrutement est causée par la prédation par les harengs (Clupea harengus) et par les morues (Gadus morhua) d’âge 0 et adultes. Il y a, de plus, une corrélation positive entre le recrutement et la température de la mer en hiver et au printemps. La récolte des capelans en état de maturation durant leur migration vers les frayères réduit le nombre de larves de manière significative, mais cette réduction est en grande partie compensée plus tard dans le cycle parce que la mortalité est fortement reliée à la densité entre le stade larvaire et l’âge 1. Notre étude indique globalement une très forte importance des relations trophiques, ce qui concorde avec des observations similaires faites dans d’autres écosystèmes marins de haute latitude.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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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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