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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 434:143-154 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09209

Long-term trends in juvenile flatfish indicate a dramatic reduction in nursery function of the Balgzand intertidal, Dutch Wadden Sea

Henk W. van der Veer1,*, Joris Koot1, Geert Aarts1,2, Rob Dekker1, Willem Diderich1,2, Vânia Freitas1,3, Johannes IJ. Witte1

1Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg Texel, The Netherlands
2Wageningen IMARES (Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies), PO Box 68, 1970 AB IJmuiden, The Netherlands
3CIMAR/CIIMAR – Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Universidade do Porto, Rua dos Bragas 289, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal

ABSTRACT: Since 1975, juvenile flatfish (plaice and flounder) populations have been monitored at the Balgzand intertidal and, based on this data series (1975–2007), the interannual patterns in predation pressure were quantified. Temporal patterns in abundance have changed greatly, especially for plaice. Up to the early 1980s, 3 year classes (0-, I- and II-group) were present and growing up in the area, but from the late 1980s onwards, densities of the I- and II-group plaice dropped from a few hundred individuals per 1000 m2 to levels close to zero. It appears that the Balgzand intertidal has lost its nursery function for I- and II-group plaice, although feeding conditions have remained the same or even slightly increased since the late 1970s. The absence of I- and II-group flatfish in the intertidal cannot be explained at present; however, processes operating offshore are most likely involved. As a consequence, the annual predation pressure by juvenile flatfish upon the intertidal macrozoobenthos dropped by 94%, declining from an average of approximately 5 to 0.25 g ash free dry mass m–2. Such a decline in top-down predation may not only have directly influenced the macrozoobenthic community, but may also have indirectly affected food availability and accessibility for other top predators (e.g. shorebirds).


KEY WORDS: Predation · Plaice · Flounder · Pleuronectes platessa · Platichthys flesus · Wadden Sea · Benthos–fish interaction · Top-down control · Nursery function


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Cite this article as: van der Veer HW, Koot J, Aarts G, Dekker R, Diderich W, Freitas V, Witte JIJ (2011) Long-term trends in juvenile flatfish indicate a dramatic reduction in nursery function of the Balgzand intertidal, Dutch Wadden Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 434:143-154. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09209

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