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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 650:269-287 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13404

Climate-associated trends and variability in ichthyoplankton phenology from the longest continuous larval fish time series on the east coast of the United States

W. Christopher Thaxton1, J. Christopher Taylor2, Rebecca G. Asch1,*

1Department of Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA
2Marine Spatial Ecology Division, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, variation in the direction and magnitude of shifts in species occurrence in space and time may disrupt interspecific interactions in ecological communities. In this study, we examined how the fall and winter ichthyoplankton community in the Newport River Estuary located inshore of Pamlico Sound in the southeastern United States has responded to environmental variability over the last 27 yr. We relate the timing of estuarine ingress of 10 larval fish species to changes in sea surface temperature (SST), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, wind strength and phenology, and tidal height. We also examined whether any species exhibited trends in ingress phenology over the last 3 decades. Species varied in the magnitude of their responses to all of the environmental variables studied, but most shared a common direction of change. SST and northerly wind strength had the largest impact on estuarine ingress phenology, with most species ingressing earlier during warm years and delaying ingress during years with strong northerly winds. As SST warms in the coming decades, the average date of ingress of some species (Atlantic croaker Micropogonias undulatus, summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus, pinfish Lagodon rhomboides) is projected to advance on the order of weeks to months, assuming temperatures do not exceed a threshold at which species can no longer respond through changes in phenology. These shifts in ingress could affect larval survival and growth since environmental conditions in the estuarine and pelagic nursery habitats of fishes also vary seasonally.


KEY WORDS: Phenology · Ichthyoplankton · Climate change · Climate variability · Southeastern US continental shelf · Larval transport · Estuarine ecology


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Cite this article as: Thaxton WC, Taylor JC, Asch RG (2020) Climate-associated trends and variability in ichthyoplankton phenology from the longest continuous larval fish time series on the east coast of the United States. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 650:269-287. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13404

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