Spatio-temporal dynamics of a fish predator: Density-dependent and hydrographic effects on Baltic Sea cod population.
ABSTRACT: Understanding the mechanisms of spatial population dynamics is crucial for the successful management of exploited species and ecosystems. However, the underlying mechanisms of spatial distribution are generally complex due to the concurrent forcing of both density-dependent species interactions and density-independent environmental factors. Despite the high economic value and central ecological importance of cod in the Baltic Sea, the drivers of its spatio-temporal population dynamics have not been analytically investigated so far. In this paper, we used an extensive trawl survey dataset in combination with environmental data to investigate the spatial dynamics of the distribution of the Eastern Baltic cod during the past three decades using Generalized Additive Models. The results showed that adult cod distribution was mainly affected by cod population size, and to a minor degree by small-scale hydrological factors and the extent of suitable reproductive areas. As population size decreases, the cod population concentrates to the southern part of the Baltic Sea, where the preferred more marine environment conditions are encountered. Using the fitted models, we predicted the Baltic cod distribution back to the 1970s and a temporal index of cod spatial occupation was developed. Our study will contribute to the management and conservation of this important resource and of the ecosystem where it occurs, by showing the forces shaping its spatial distribution and therefore the potential response of the population to future exploitation and environmental changes.
Project description:Knowledge of the spatial distribution of juvenile cod is essential for obtaining precise recruitment data to conduct sustainable management of the eastern and western Baltic cod stocks. In this study, the horizontal and vertical distribution and density patterns of settled juvenile 0- and 1-group Baltic cod are determined, and their nursery areas are localised according to the environmental factors affecting them. Comparative statistical analyses of biological, hydrographic and hydroacoustic data are carried out based on standard ICES demersal trawl surveys and special integrated trawl and acoustic research surveys. Horizontal distribution maps for the 2001-2010 cohorts of juvenile cod are further generated by applying a statistical log-Gaussian Cox process model to the standard trawl survey data. The analyses indicate size-dependent horizontal and distinct vertical and diurnal distribution patterns related to the seabed topography, water layer depth, and the presence of hydrographic frontal zones (pycnoclines) as well as intraspecific patterns in relation to the presence of adult cod. The extent of the nursery areas also depends on the cod year class strength. Juvenile cod (?3 cm) are present in all areas of the central Baltic Sea (CBS), showing broad dispersal. However, their highest density in the Baltic Basins is found at localities with a 40-70 m bottom depth in waters with oxygen concentrations above 2 ml O?.l?¹ and temperatures above 5°C. The smallest juveniles are also found in deep sea localities down to a 100 m depth and at oxygen concentrations between 2-4 ml O?.l?¹. The vertical, diurnally stratified and repeated trawling and hydroacoustic target strength-depth distributions obtained from the special surveys show juvenile cod concentrations in frontal zone water layers (pycnocline). However, the analyses indicate that in the CBS, juvenile cod of all sizes do not appear to aggregate in dense schooling patterns, which differs from what has been reported from the North Sea.
Project description:Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is one of the most important fish species in northern Europe for several reasons including its predator status in marine ecosystems, its historical role in fisheries, its potential in aquaculture and its strong public profile. However, due to over-exploitation in the North Atlantic and changes in the ecosystem, many cod populations have been reduced in size and genetic diversity. Cod populations in the Baltic Proper, Kattegat and North Sea have been analyzed using a species specific single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array. Using a subset of 8,706 SNPs, moderate genetic differences were found between subdivisions in three traditionally delineated cod management stocks: Kattegat, western and eastern Baltic. However, an F<sub>ST</sub> measure of population differentiation based on allele frequencies from 588 outlier loci for 2 population groups, one including 5 western and the other 4 eastern Baltic populations, indicated high genetic differentiation. In this paper, differentiation has been demonstrated not only between, but also within western and eastern Baltic cod stocks for the first time, with salinity appearing to be the most important environmental factor influencing the maintenance of cod population divergence between the western and eastern Baltic Sea.
Project description:The North Sea cod (Gadus morhua, L.) stock has continuously declined over the past four decades linked with overfishing and climate change. Changes in stock structure due to overfishing have made the stock largely dependent on its recruitment success, which greatly relies on environmental conditions. Here we focus on the spatio-temporal variability of cod recruitment in an effort to detect changes during the critical early life stages. Using International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS) data from 1974 to 2011, a major spatio-temporal change in the distribution of cod recruits was identified in the late 1990s, characterized by a pronounced decrease in the central and southeastern North Sea stock. Other minor spatial changes were also recorded in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. We tested whether the observed changes in recruits distribution could be related with direct (i.e. temperature) and/or indirect (i.e. changes in the quantity and quality of zooplankton prey) effects of climate variability. The analyses were based on spatially-resolved time series, i.e. sea surface temperature (SST) from the Hadley Center and zooplankton records from the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey. We showed that spring SST increase was the main driver for the most recent decrease in cod recruitment. The late 1990s were also characterized by relatively low total zooplankton biomass, particularly of energy-rich zooplankton such as the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, which have further contributed to the decline of North Sea cod recruitment. Long-term spatially-resolved observations were used to produce regional distribution models that could further be used to predict the abundance of North Sea cod recruits based on temperature and zooplankton food availability.
Project description:Investigating the factors regulating fish condition is crucial in ecology and the management of exploited fish populations. The body condition of cod (Gadus morhua) in the Baltic Sea has dramatically decreased during the past two decades, with large implications for the fishery relying on this resource. Here, we statistically investigated the potential drivers of the Baltic cod condition during the past 40 years using newly compiled fishery-independent biological data and hydrological observations. We evidenced a combination of different factors operating before and after the ecological regime shift that occurred in the Baltic Sea in the early 1990s. The changes in cod condition related to feeding opportunities, driven either by density-dependence or food limitation, along the whole period investigated and to the fivefold increase in the extent of hypoxic areas in the most recent 20 years. Hypoxic areas can act on cod condition through different mechanisms related directly to species physiology, or indirectly to behaviour and trophic interactions. Our analyses found statistical evidence for an effect of the hypoxia-induced habitat compression on cod condition possibly operating via crowding and density-dependent processes. These results furnish novel insights into the population dynamics of Baltic Sea cod that can aid the management of this currently threatened population.
Project description:Understanding the effects of cross-system fluxes is fundamental in ecosystem ecology and biological conservation. Source-sink dynamics and spillover processes may link adjacent ecosystems by movement of organisms across system boundaries. However, effects of temporal variability in these cross-system fluxes on a whole marine ecosystem structure have not yet been presented. Here we show, using 35 y of multitrophic data series from the Baltic Sea, that transitory spillover of the top-predator cod from its main distribution area produces cascading effects in the whole food web of an adjacent and semi-isolated ecosystem. At varying population size, cod expand/contract their distribution range and invade/retreat from the neighboring Gulf of Riga, thereby affecting the local prey population of herring and, indirectly, zooplankton and phytoplankton via top-down control. The Gulf of Riga can be considered for cod a "true sink" habitat, where in the absence of immigration from the source areas of the central Baltic Sea the cod population goes extinct due to the absence of suitable spawning grounds. Our results add a metaecosystem perspective to the ongoing intense scientific debate on the key role of top predators in structuring natural systems. The integration of regional and local processes is central to predict species and ecosystem responses to future climate changes and ongoing anthropogenic disturbances.
Project description:Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is a species of great ecological and economical importance in the Baltic Sea. Here, two genetically differentiated stocks, the western and the eastern Baltic cod, display substantial mechanical mixing, hampering our understanding of cod ecology and impeding stock assessments and management. Based on whole-genome re-sequencing data from reference samples obtained from the study area, we designed two different panels of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms markers (SNPs), which take into account the exceptional genome architecture of cod. A minimum panel of 20 diagnostic SNPs and an extended panel (20 diagnostic and 18 biologically informative SNPs, 38 in total) were developed and validated to distinguish unambiguously between the western and the eastern Baltic cod stocks and to enable studies of local adaptation to the specific environment in the Baltic Sea, respectively. We tested both panels on cod sampled from the southern Baltic Sea (n = 603) caught in 2015 and 2016. Genotyping results showed that catches from the mixing zone in the Arkona Sea, were composed of similar proportions of individuals of the western and the eastern stock. Catches from adjacent areas to the east, the Bornholm Basin and Gda?sk Deep, were exclusively composed of eastern Baltic cod, whereas catches from adjacent western areas (Belt Sea and Öresund) were composed of western Baltic cod. Interestingly, the two Baltic cod stocks showed strong genetic differences at loci associated with life-history trait candidate genes, highlighting the species' potential for ecological adaptation even at small geographical scales. The minimum and the extended panel of SNP markers presented in this study provide powerful tools for future applications in research and fisheries management to further illuminate the mixing dynamics of cod in the Baltic Sea and to better understand Baltic cod ecology.
Project description:Population-specific assessment and management of anadromous fish at sea requires detailed information about the distribution at sea over ontogeny for each population. However, despite a long history of mixed-stock sea fisheries on Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, migration studies showing that some salmon populations feed in different regions of the Baltic Sea and variation in dynamics occurs among populations feeding in the Baltic Sea, such information is often lacking. Also, current assessment of Baltic salmon assumes equal distribution at sea and therefore equal responses to changes in off-shore sea fisheries. Here, we test for differences in distribution at sea among and within ten Atlantic salmon Salmo salar populations originating from ten river-specific hatcheries along the Swedish Baltic Sea coast, using individual data from >125,000 tagged salmon, recaptured over five decades. We show strong population and size-specific differences in distribution at sea, varying between year classes and between individuals within year classes. This suggests that Atlantic salmon in the Baltic Sea experience great variation in environmental conditions and exploitation rates over ontogeny depending on origin and that current assessment assumptions about equal exploitation rates in the offshore fisheries and a shared environment at sea are not valid. Thus, our results provide additional arguments and necessary information for implementing population-specific management of salmon, also when targeting life stages at sea.
Project description:Environmental conditions may have previously underappreciated effects on the reproductive processes of commercially exploited fish populations, for example eastern Baltic cod, that are living at the physiological limits of their distribution. In the Baltic Sea, salinity affects neutral egg buoyancy, which is positively correlated with egg survival, as only water layers away from the oxygen consumption-dominated sea bottom contain sufficient oxygen. Egg buoyancy is positively correlated to female spawner age/size. From observations in the Baltic Sea, a field-based relationship between egg diameter and buoyancy (floating depth) could be established. Hence, based on the age structure of the spawning stock, we quantify the number of effective spawners, which are able to reproduce under ambient hydrographic conditions. For the time period 1993-2010, our results revealed large variations in the horizontal extent of spawning habitat (1000-20 000 km(2)) and oxygen-dependent egg survival (10-80%). The novel concept of an effective spawning stock biomass takes into account offspring that survive depending on the spawning stock age/size structure, if reproductive success is related to egg buoyancy and the extent of hypoxic areas. Effective spawning stock biomass reflected the role of environmental conditions for Baltic cod recruitment better than the spawning stock biomass alone, highlighting the importance of including environmental information in ecosystem-based management approaches.
Project description:How genomic selection enables species to adapt to divergent environments is a fundamental question in ecology and evolution. We investigated the genomic signatures of local adaptation in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) along a natural salinity gradient, ranging from 35‰ in the North Sea to 7‰ within the Baltic Sea. By utilizing a 12 K SNPchip, we simultaneously assessed neutral and adaptive genetic divergence across the Atlantic cod genome. Combining outlier analyses with a landscape genomic approach, we identified a set of directionally selected loci that are strongly correlated with habitat differences in salinity, oxygen, and temperature. Our results show that discrete regions within the Atlantic cod genome are subject to directional selection and associated with adaptation to the local environmental conditions in the Baltic- and the North Sea, indicating divergence hitchhiking and the presence of genomic islands of divergence. We report a suite of outlier single nucleotide polymorphisms within or closely located to genes associated with osmoregulation, as well as genes known to play important roles in the hydration and development of oocytes. These genes are likely to have key functions within a general osmoregulatory framework and are important for the survival of eggs and larvae, contributing to the buildup of reproductive isolation between the low-salinity adapted Baltic cod and the adjacent cod populations. Hence, our data suggest that adaptive responses to the environmental conditions in the Baltic Sea may contribute to a strong and effective reproductive barrier, and that Baltic cod can be viewed as an example of ongoing speciation.
Project description:Accumulating research argues that migrants influence the functioning and productivity of local habitats and ecosystems along migration routes and potentially drive cross-system energy fluxes of considerable magnitude, yet empirical documentation of local ecological effects and descriptions of the underlying mechanisms are surprisingly rare. In this study, we discovered migrant-resident interactions and substantial cross-system lipid transportation in the transition zone between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea where a resident cod population (predators) was found to interact with a herring population (prey) on a seasonal basis. We traced the lipids, using fatty acid trophic markers (FATM), from the herring feeding grounds in the North Sea to the cod livers in the Western Baltic Sea. Time series analysis of population dynamics indicated that population-level production of cod is positively affected by the herring subsidies. However, the underlying mechanisms were more complicated than anticipated. During the herring season, large cod received most of its dietary lipids from the herring, whereas smaller cod were prevented from accessing the lipid pool due to a mismatch in predator-prey size ratio. Furthermore, while the herring were extremely rich in bulk energy, they were surprisingly poor in a specific functional fatty acid. Hence, our study was the first to illustrate how the magnitude cross-system fluxes of subsidies in migrant-resident systems are potentially constrained by the size structure of the resident predator population and the nutritional quality of the migrants.