MEPS 600:111-126 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12615

Modeled larval fish prey fields and growth rates help predict recruitment success of cod and anchovy in the North Sea

Klaus B. Huebert1,2,*, Johannes Pätsch3, Marc Hufnagl1, Markus Kreus1,3,4, Myron A. Peck1

1Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, University of Hamburg, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
2Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA
3Institute of Oceanography, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, University of Hamburg, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
4Present address: Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute, 22559 Hamburg, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We introduce a new, coupled modeling approach for simulating ecosystem-wide patterns in larval fish foraging and growth. An application of the method reveals how interplay between temperature and plankton dynamics during 1970-2009 impacted a cold-water species (Atlantic cod Gadus morhua) and a warm-water species (European anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus) in the North Sea. Larval fish growth rates were estimated by coupling models depicting trait-based foraging and bioenergetics of individuals, spatiotemporal changes in their prey field, and the biogeochemistry and hydrodynamics of the region. The biomass composition of modeled prey fields varied from 89% nano-, 10% micro-, and 1% mesoplankton to 15% nano-, 20% micro-, and 65% mesoplankton. The mean slope of the normalized biomass size spectrum was near -1.2, consistent with theoretical and empirical estimates. Median larval fish growth rates peaked in June for cod (24% d-1) and in July for anchovy (17% d-1). Insufficient prey resources played a substantial role in limiting the growth rates of cod larvae. Anchovy were consistently limited by cold temperatures. Faster median larval growth during specific months was significantly (p < 0.05) positively associated with detrended (i.e. higher than expected) juvenile recruitment indices in cod (rank correlation Kendall’s tau = 22%) and anchovy (tau = 42%). For cod, the most predictive month was February, which was also when food limitation was most prevalent. The continued development of modeling tools based on first principles can help further a mechanistic understanding of how changes in the environment affect the productivity of living marine resources.


KEY WORDS: Fish larvae · Plankton · Model · Bottom-up processes · Prey availability · Growth · Recruitment · Cod · Anchovy · North Sea


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Cite this article as: Huebert KB, Pätsch J, Hufnagl M, Kreus M, Peck MA (2018) Modeled larval fish prey fields and growth rates help predict recruitment success of cod and anchovy in the North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 600:111-126. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12615

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