MEPS 364:15-29 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07486

Untangling the relationships among climate, prey and top predators in an ocean ecosystem

B. K. Wells1,2,*, J. C. Field1, J. A. Thayer3, C. B. Grimes1, S. J. Bograd4, W. J. Sydeman5, F. B. Schwing4, R. Hewitt6

1Fisheries Ecology Division, NOAA Fisheries, 110 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
2Long Marine Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz, 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
3PRBO Conservation Science, 3820 Cypress Drive #11, Petaluma, California 94954, USA
4Environmental Research Division, NOAA Fisheries, 1352 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA
5Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research, PO Box 750756, Petaluma, California 94975, USA
6Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

ABSTRACT: Successful ecosystem-based conservation of marine resources can benefit from quantitative indicators of ecosystem productivity, particularly if such indicators quantify and incorporate the relationships between physical and biological components of the ecosystem simultaneously. Despite widespread explorations of relationships between physical processes particularly important to the ocean system (e.g. wind indices, advection and retention of coastal waters, sea surface temperature, coastal sea level and the temporal aspects of these factors) and resulting biological responses, explicit understanding of mechanistic connections often remains elusive. We use path analysis and partial least squares regression to visualize and quantify links between biological and physical components in the California Current ecosystem and to predict reproductive success at 3 trophic levels. We examine the applicability of this approach using a hierarchical pattern of environmental indices, relationships previously described in the literature and quantitative measures of zooplankton, fish and seabird productivity. We show that each trophic level and community production can be described using environmental and biological data in a manner that provides a comprehensive evaluation of physical and biological connectivity and mechanisms. Importantly, our approach to modeling an ecosystem represents a practical middle ground between simple correlative methods typically employed and a perhaps unattainable complete mechanistic understanding of all physical and biological mechanisms regulating variability in reproductive success.


KEY WORDS: Common murre · Auklet · Krill · Rockfish · California Current · Climate


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Cite this article as: Wells BK, Field JC, Thayer JA, Grimes CB and others (2008) Untangling the relationships among climate, prey and top predators in an ocean ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 364:15-29. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07486

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