MEPS 595:157-169 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12539

Pacific herring spawn events influence nearshore subtidal and intertidal species

C. H. Fox1,2,4,*, P. C. Paquet2,3, T. E. Reimchen1

1Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada
2Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sidney, BC V8L 3Y3, Canada
3Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada
4Present address: Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As intermediaries between the bottom and top of food webs, forage fish fuel a diversity of coastal consumers and are of socioecological importance throughout the world’s oceans. Many forage fish are migratory, but despite their recognized importance, relatively little is known about their role in providing spatial subsidies, which are the movements of energy, material, and organisms across ecosystems. Until recently, spatial subsidies associated with Pacific herring Clupea pallasii, a dominant migratory forage fish that spawns in subtidal and intertidal zones, received little scrutiny. Building on research that traced links between herring spawns and coastal ecosystems, we used stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) to assess whether herring spawning events influenced isotopic signatures of 10 macrophyte and invertebrate species across beaches where spawning did or did not occur. Overall, species collected from spawning beaches had significantly greater δ15N levels (general linear mixed model parameter estimate = 1.58 ± 0.17 SE, F1,370 = 83.77, p < 0.001); no significant effects were detected for δ13C (parameter estimate = 0.03 ± 0.23 SE, F1,343 = 0.01, p = 0.914). In terms of total nitrogen, macrophytes from spawning beaches had significantly elevated concentrations (parameter estimate = 5.03 ± 0.94 SE, F1,180 = 28.71, p < 0.001). Using directional statistics, mean angles of isotopic change differed significantly between species collected from spawning and non-spawning beaches (Watson-Williams F-test; F1,48 = 10.44, p = 0.002). Our study identifies multiple species as recipients of herring-derived nutrients at spawning events, providing additional evidence of the broad ecological influence of Pacific herring.


KEY WORDS: Clupea pallasii · Spatial subsidy · Stable isotopes · Forage fish · Invertebrates · Macrophytes · Intertidal · Subtidal


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Cite this article as: Fox CH, Paquet PC, Reimchen TE (2018) Pacific herring spawn events influence nearshore subtidal and intertidal species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 595:157-169. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12539

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