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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14526

Anomalous ocean currents and anchovy dispersal in the Iberian ecosystem

A. Teles-Machado*, S. M. Plecha, A. Peliz, S. Garrido

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Unlike other upwelling areas where sardine and anchovy species dominate the pelagic ecosystems, the Western Iberian ecosystem has been consistently dominated by European sardine, while anchovy had a residual presence from the start of the acoustic surveys, in 1989, to 2014. Since 2015, the abundance of anchovy in the Western Iberian margins has sharply increased and continues to show an increasing trend as of 2023. It is unclear if this increase is a result of dispersal from nearby recruitment areas, higher survival rates of early life stages due to favorable environmental conditions, or both. This study used a set of different models to simulate the dispersion and survival of anchovy early life stages in the Iberian region for the years preceding the increase of anchovy abundance in the area. An ocean model simulation with the model CROCO provided the fields used as background for Lagrangian simulations coupled to an Individual-Based Model of anchovy eggs and larvae. We simulate the years of 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the results show that in 2014 and 2015, anomalous upper-ocean circulation pattern with strong and persistent eastward currents transported a large number of eggs and larvae from the Bay of Biscay (BoB) eastward along the Northern Iberian margin. The maximum transport occurred in June/July 2015 when 8%/4%, respectively, of the eggs spawned in the BoB potentially reached the Iberian west coast as larvae. This process might explain the increase in anchovy abundance in the Western Iberian ecosystem. The results of the study show that episodes of anomalous intense ocean currents, when coincident with high presence of eggs, can lead to the colonization of new areas and connectivity between areas varies dramatically with time.