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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 680:79-95 (2021)  -  DOI:

Sensitivity of the fish community to different prey fields and importance of spatial-seasonal patterns

Karen E. van de Wolfshaar1,*, Ute Daewel2, Solfrid Sætre Hjøllo3, Tineke A. Troost4, Markus Kreus5, Johannes Pätsch6,7, Rubao Ji8, Marie Maar9

1Wageningen Marine Research, Haringkade 1, 1976 CP IJmuiden, The Netherlands
2Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Institute for Coastal Systems - Analysis and Modelling, Max-Planck-Str. 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany
3Institute of Marine Research, Box 1870 Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway
4Deltares, Boussinesqweg 1, 2629 HV Delft, The Netherlands
5Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau, Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute, Wedeler Landstraße 157, 22559 Hamburg, Germany
6Theoretical Oceanography, Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
7Institute of Carbon Cycles, Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, Max-Planck-Str 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany
8Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 45 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
9Aarhus University, Department of Ecoscience, Frederiksborgvej 399, PO Box 358, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Different fish species and life stages depend not only on food abundance, but also on the size of planktonic prey, and (mis-)matches in time and space with suitable prey may influence the growth and survival of fish during their lifetime. We explored the sensitivity of a fish community to spatial-temporal differences in plankton prey fields. Data from 5 different lower trophic level models in the North Sea (Delft3D-WAQ, ECOHAM, ECOSMO, HBM-ERGOM and NORWECOM) were used to force the food web model OSMOSE which simulates spatially and temporally explicit higher trophic level fish dynamics. The estimated fish biomass levels were clearly and positively linked to zooplankton biomass, and sensitivity studies varying zooplankton biomass revealed that spatial and temporal variation in zooplankton drives the differences in absolute fish biomass. More zooplankton size bins resulted in less fish biomass due to size-based foraging constraints (i.e. a smaller proportion of bins falls within the prey size range of a fish, resulting in a decrease in available food). Nevertheless, we found a consistent response across models in the relative biomass contribution and spatial patterns of selected fish groups, indicating low sensitivity of the composition of the simulated fish community to the zooplankton input. The robustness of the outcome will aid model acceptance and implementation into management action. Relative, not absolute, changes in primary and secondary production may therefore be used to study the effects of management scenarios on fish communities.

KEY WORDS: Trophic transfer · Lower trophic levels · Higher trophic levels · Modelling · North Sea · Food web

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Cite this article as: van de Wolfshaar KE, Daewel U, Hjøllo SS, Troost TA and others (2021) Sensitivity of the fish community to different prey fields and importance of spatial-seasonal patterns. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 680:79-95.

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