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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 495:219-231 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10579

Ecosystem effects of contemporary life-history changes are comparable to those of fishing

Asta Audzijonyte1,2,*, Anna Kuparinen2,3, Elizabeth A. Fulton1

1CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, Helsinki 00014, Finland
3Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, Helsinki 00014, Finland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Recent studies suggest that fishing and climate change can lead to a decrease in body size of fishes. While the effect of fishing on marine ecosystems has been widely explored, much less is known about the ecosystem effects of fish body size decrease. Here we used a marine ecosystem model to compare how fishing and small (<0.1% yr -1) but continuous (50 yr) decreases in the average body sizes of 5 Australian demersal fish species affect ecosystem indicators, biomasses and diets of different species. We found that decreasing growth rate of the 5 species had similar and comparable impact as the introduction of fishing of these 5 species at fishing mortality rate of F = 0.2 yr -1. The same applied when impacts of decrease in size were compared to those of increasing fishing from F = 0.2 to F = 0.4. This suggests that declines in body size alone can lead to ecosystem responses similar in magnitude to those caused by moderate fishing. On average, body size decrease alone caused more qualitative changes in diets of all species and larger changes in the predation mortality of slower growing species than the introduction or intensification of fishing. The overall ecosystem response to fishing and slower growth of fish was largely similar and additive, suggesting that decreasing sizes of harvested fishes are likely to amplify the effects of fishing.


KEY WORDS: Diets · Ecosystem indicators · Ecosystem models · Fisheries induced evolution · Growth · Predator–prey interactions


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Cite this article as: Audzijonyte A, Kuparinen A, Fulton EA (2014) Ecosystem effects of contemporary life-history changes are comparable to those of fishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 495:219-231. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10579

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