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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 635:123-137 (2020)  -  DOI:

Community size spectra provide indicators of ecosystem recovery on the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf

Kyle J. Krumsick*, Jonathan A. D. Fisher

Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5R3, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Species- and size-selective overexploitation often have ecosystem-wide impacts that are evident in community size spectra. To both derive potential ecosystem targets for community rebuilding and assess contemporary indicators relative to these targets, we constructed theoretical size spectra to predict pristine biomass densities using a combination of species- and size-specific nitrogen stable isotope signatures and a range of trophic efficiencies and primary productivity estimates within and among 3 sub-regions of the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf. Theoretical size spectra were compared to empirically derived size spectra using trawl survey data. The descending slopes of the empirically determined size spectra were between 1.25 and 2.42 times steeper than the theoretical slopes. The percentage of the theoretical distribution represented by the empirical size structure ranged between 1.1 and 29.4%, with the closest and furthest estimates associated with the smallest- and largest-sized fishes, respectively, and strongly influenced by estimates of trophic efficiency and primary productivity. Regional variation was also observed, with southern regions reaching 1.3-32.3% of the theoretical biomass density and the northernmost region reaching only 0-8.3%. Importantly, the descending slopes varied depending on fish size, with biomass density of larger sizes decreasing faster than that of smaller sizes. Variations among sub-regions and fish guilds were also observed. These analyses provide a means to derive potential ecosystem targets and indicators through which recovery of fish communities can be monitored and assessed.

KEY WORDS: Size spectra · Biomass density · Predator:prey mass ratio · Northwest Atlantic · Nitrogen stable isotope

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Cite this article as: Krumsick KJ, Fisher JAD (2020) Community size spectra provide indicators of ecosystem recovery on the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 635:123-137.

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