CR 42:257-264 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00917

Climate-induced changes in the North Sea Decapoda over the last 60 years

John A. Lindley1, Richard R. Kirby2,*

1Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, Citadel Hill, The Hoe, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
2University of Plymouth, School of Marine Science and Engineering, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: In the mid-1980s the North Sea ecosystem experienced a climate-induced regime shift that has favoured decapods and detritivores in the benthos and jellyfish in the plankton over commercial fisheries. Here, we investigate changes among the Decapoda in the North Sea plankton over the last 60 yr. Decapods are important predators in the plankton and the benthos where they can influence productivity and structure communities. In the North Sea it has been suggested that a climate-driven increase in decapod abundance has been important in propagating the climate signal through the North Sea food web. We show that climate-induced changes in the Decapoda in the central and southern North Sea include the presence of new warm-water taxa, changes in the abundance and proportions of commercial species of shrimp, and an earlier occurrence of decapod larvae in the plankton compared with the period 1981–1983. Notable amongst the warm-water taxa appearing in the North Sea is the predatory swimming crab Polybius henslowii that can swarm in large numbers when conditions are favourable and that is known to exhibit range shifts in response to fluctuations in hydroclimatic forcing. We suggest that climate-induced changes among North Sea decapods have played an important role in the trophic amplification of a climate signal and the development of the new North Sea dynamic regime. Understanding these changes is likely to be imperative for a successful ecosystem-based approach to the future management of North Sea fisheries at a time of climate change.


KEY WORDS: Benthos · Plankton · Polybius henslowii · Phenology · Temperature


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Cite this article as: Lindley JA, Kirby RR (2010) Climate-induced changes in the North Sea Decapoda over the last 60 years. Clim Res 42:257-264. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00917

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