MEPS 429:169-183 (2011)  -  DOI:

Top-down interactions and temperature control of snow crab abundance in the northwest Atlantic Ocean

Stephanie A. Boudreau*, Sean C. Anderson, Boris Worm

Biology Department, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada

ABSTRACT: In much of the northwest Atlantic Ocean, commercially important snow crab Chionoecetes opilio stocks have increased in abundance since the decline and collapse of major groundfish stocks such as Atlantic cod Gadus morhua. We examined 3 hypotheses to explain variation in the abundance of snow crabs across 10 regions: (1) climate control of both species, (2) top-down control of snow crab by cod and (3) bottom-up control of cod by snow crab. We tested these hypotheses by analyzing time series data of cod and crab abundance indices and temperature via meta-analysis of full and partial correlation coefficients. We found that temperature had an opposing effect on the 2 species: snow crab abundance was negatively correlated with temperature at 7 to 10 yr lags, whereas cod and temperature were positively related at 1 to 7 yr lags. Controlling for the effect of temperature, our meta-analysis revealed significant negative correlations of snow crab and cod abundance, with cod leading snow crab by up to a 5 yr lag. This suggests a top-down effect on older juvenile and subadult snow crab. We found no evidence of a bottom-up effect of snow crab on cod. Negative correlations between cod and crab abundance were observed both at the warmer and colder portions of their ranges. These results suggest that snow crab abundance is largely influenced by temperature during the early postsettlement years and becomes increasingly regulated by ­top-down mechanisms during the years approaching fishery recruitment. The method presented in this paper is generally useful to test ecological hypotheses from time series data, particularly where multiple causal mechanisms are suspected.

KEY WORDS: Predation · Species interactions · Climate · Snow crab · Chionoecetes opilio · Atlantic cod · Gadus morhua · Meta-analysis

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Cite this article as: Boudreau SA, Anderson SC, Worm B (2011) Top-down interactions and temperature control of snow crab abundance in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 429:169-183.

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