Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics.
ABSTRACT: Global forage-fish landings are increasing, with potentially grave consequences for marine ecosystems. Predators of forage fish may be influenced by this harvest, but the nature of these effects is contentious. Experimental fishery manipulations offer the best solution to quantify population-level impacts, but are rare. We used Bayesian inference to examine changes in chick survival, body condition and population growth rate of endangered African penguins Spheniscus demersus in response to 8 years of alternating time-area closures around two pairs of colonies. Our results demonstrate that fishing closures improved chick survival and condition, after controlling for changing prey availability. However, this effect was inconsistent across sites and years, highlighting the difficultly of assessing management interventions in marine ecosystems. Nevertheless, modelled increases in population growth rates exceeded 1% at one colony; i.e. the threshold considered biologically meaningful by fisheries management in South Africa. Fishing closures evidently can improve the population trend of a forage-fish-dependent predator-we therefore recommend they continue in South Africa and support their application elsewhere. However, detecting demographic gains for mobile marine predators from small no-take zones requires experimental time frames and scales that will often exceed those desired by decision makers.
Project description:Marine no-take zones can have positive impacts for target species and are increasingly important management tools. However, whether they indirectly benefit higher order predators remains unclear. The endangered African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) depends on commercially exploited forage fish. We examined how chick survival responded to an experimental 3-year fishery closure around Robben Island, South Africa, controlling for variation in prey biomass and fishery catches. Chick survival increased by 18% when the closure was initiated, which alone led to a predicted 27% higher population compared with continued fishing. However, the modelled population continued to decline, probably because of high adult mortality linked to poor prey availability over larger spatial scales. Our results illustrate that small no-take zones can have bottom-up benefits for highly mobile marine predators, but are only one component of holistic, ecosystem-based management regimes.
Project description:Forage fish support the largest fisheries in the world but also play key roles in marine food webs by transferring energy from plankton to upper trophic-level predators, such as large fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Fishing can, thereby, have far reaching consequences on marine food webs unless safeguards are in place to avoid depleting forage fish to dangerously low levels, where dependent predators are most vulnerable. However, disentangling the contributions of fishing vs. natural processes on population dynamics has been difficult because of the sensitivity of these stocks to environmental conditions. Here, we overcome this difficulty by collating population time series for forage fish populations that account for nearly two-thirds of global catch of forage fish to identify the fingerprint of fisheries on their population dynamics. Forage fish population collapses shared a set of common and unique characteristics: high fishing pressure for several years before collapse, a sharp drop in natural population productivity, and a lagged response to reduce fishing pressure. Lagged response to natural productivity declines can sharply amplify the magnitude of naturally occurring population fluctuations. Finally, we show that the magnitude and frequency of collapses are greater than expected from natural productivity characteristics and therefore, likely attributed to fishing. The durations of collapses, however, were not different from those expected based on natural productivity shifts. A risk-based management scheme that reduces fishing when populations become scarce would protect forage fish and their predators from collapse with little effect on long-term average catches.
Project description:Twenty-first century conservation is centered on negotiating trade-offs between the diverse needs of people and the needs of the other species constituting coupled human-natural ecosystems. Marine forage fishes, such as sardines, anchovies, and herring, are a nexus for such trade-offs because they are both central nodes in marine food webs and targeted by fisheries. An important example is Pacific herring, Clupea pallisii in the Northeast Pacific. Herring populations are subject to two distinct fisheries: one that harvests adults and one that harvests spawned eggs. We develop stochastic, age-structured models to assess the interaction between fisheries, herring populations, and the persistence of predators reliant on herring populations. We show that egg- and adult-fishing have asymmetric effects on herring population dynamics--herring stocks can withstand higher levels of egg harvest before becoming depleted. Second, ecosystem thresholds proposed to ensure the persistence of herring predators do not necessarily pose more stringent constraints on fisheries than conventional, fishery driven harvest guidelines. Our approach provides a general template to evaluate ecosystem trade-offs between stage-specific harvest practices in relation to environmental variability, the risk of fishery closures, and the risk of exceeding ecosystem thresholds intended to ensure conservation goals are met.
Project description:The worldwide depletion of major fish stocks through intensive industrial fishing is thought to have profoundly altered the trophic structure of marine ecosystems. Here we assess changes in the trophic structure of the English Channel marine ecosystem using a 90-year time-series (1920-2010) of commercial fishery landings. Our analysis was based on estimates of the mean trophic level (mTL) of annual landings and the Fishing-in-Balance index (FiB). Food webs of the Channel ecosystem have been altered, as shown by a significant decline in the mTL of fishery landings whilst increases in the FiB index suggest increased fishing effort and fishery expansion. Large, high trophic level species (e.g. spurdog, cod, ling) have been increasingly replaced by smaller, low trophic level fish (e.g. small spotted catsharks) and invertebrates (e.g. scallops, crabs and lobster). Declining trophic levels in fisheries catches have occurred worldwide, with fish catches progressively being replaced by invertebrates. We argue that a network of fisheries closures would help rebalance the trophic status of the Channel and allow regeneration of marine ecosystems.
Project description:The effects of climate and fishing on marine ecosystems have usually been studied separately, but their interactions make ecosystem dynamics difficult to understand and predict. Of particular interest to management, the potential synergism or antagonism between fishing pressure and climate forcing is analysed in this paper, using an end-to-end ecosystem model of the southern Benguela ecosystem, built from coupling hydrodynamic, biogeochemical and multispecies fish models (ROMS-N2P2Z2D2-OSMOSE). Scenarios of different intensities of upwelling-favourable wind stress combined with scenarios of fishing top-predator fish were tested. Analyses of isolated drivers show that the bottom-up effect of the climate forcing propagates up the food chain whereas the top-down effect of fishing cascades down to zooplankton in unfavourable environmental conditions but dampens before it reaches phytoplankton. When considering both climate and fishing drivers together, it appears that top-down control dominates the link between top-predator fish and forage fish, whereas interactions between the lower trophic levels are dominated by bottom-up control. The forage fish functional group appears to be a central component of this ecosystem, being the meeting point of two opposite trophic controls. The set of combined scenarios shows that fishing pressure and upwelling-favourable wind stress have mostly dampened effects on fish populations, compared to predictions from the separate effects of the stressors. Dampened effects result in biomass accumulation at the top predator fish level but a depletion of biomass at the forage fish level. This should draw our attention to the evolution of this functional group, which appears as both structurally important in the trophic functioning of the ecosystem, and very sensitive to climate and fishing pressures. In particular, diagnoses considering fishing pressure only might be more optimistic than those that consider combined effects of fishing and environmental variability.
Project description:In recent years, it has become apparent that human impacts have altered community structure in coastal and marine ecosystems worldwide. Of these, fishing is one of the most pervasive, and a growing body of work suggests that fishing can have strong effects on the ecology of target species, especially top predators. However, the effects of removing top predators on lower trophic groups of prey fishes are less clear, particularly in highly diverse and trophically complex coral reef ecosystems. We examined patterns of abundance, size structure, and age-based demography through surveys and collection-based studies of five fish species from a variety of trophic levels at Kiritimati and Palmyra, two nearby atolls in the Northern Line Islands. These islands have similar biogeography and oceanography, and yet Kiritimati has ?10,000 people with extensive local fishing while Palmyra is a US National Wildlife Refuge with no permanent human population, no fishing, and an intact predator fauna. Surveys indicated that top predators were relatively larger and more abundant at unfished Palmyra, while prey functional groups were relatively smaller but showed no clear trends in abundance as would be expected from classic trophic cascades. Through detailed analyses of focal species, we found that size and longevity of a top predator were lower at fished Kiritimati than at unfished Palmyra. Demographic patterns also shifted dramatically for 4 of 5 fish species in lower trophic groups, opposite in direction to the top predator, including decreases in average size and longevity at Palmyra relative to Kiritimati. Overall, these results suggest that fishing may alter community structure in complex and non-intuitive ways, and that indirect demographic effects should be considered more broadly in ecosystem-based management.
Project description:Competition between large jellyfish and forage fish for zooplankton prey is both a possible cause of jellyfish increases and a concern for the management of marine ecosystems and fisheries. Identifying principal factors affecting this competition is therefore important for marine management, but the lack of both good quality data and a robust theoretical framework have prevented general global analyses. Here, we present a general mechanistic food web model that considers fundamental differences in feeding modes and predation pressure between fish and jellyfish. The model predicts forage fish dominance at low primary production, and a shift towards jellyfish with increasing productivity, turbidity and fishing. We present an index of global ecosystem susceptibility to shifts in fish-jellyfish dominance that compares well with data on jellyfish distributions and trends. The results are a step towards better understanding the processes that govern jellyfish occurrences globally and highlight the advantage of considering feeding traits in ecosystem models.
Project description:High levels of jellyfish biomass have been reported in marine ecosystems around the world, but understanding of their ecological role remains in its infancy. Jellyfish are generally thought to have indirect negative impacts on higher trophic-level predators, through changes in lower trophic pathways. However, high densities of jellyfish in the water column may affect the foraging behaviour of marine predators more directly, and the effects may not always be negative. Here, we present novel observations of a diving seabird, the thick-billed murre, feeding on fish aggregating among the long tentacles of large jellyfish, by using small video loggers attached to the birds. We show that the birds encountered large jellyfish, Chrysaora melanaster, during most of their dives, commonly fed on fish associated with jellyfish, and appeared to specifically target jellyfish with a high number of fish aggregating in their tentacles, suggesting the use of jellyfish may provide significant energetic benefits to foraging murres. We conclude that jellyfish provide feeding opportunities for diving seabirds by concentrating forage fish, and that the impacts of jellyfish on marine ecosystems are more complex than previously anticipated and may be beneficial to seabirds.
Project description:We use a spatially explicit biogeochemical end-to-end ecosystem model, Atlantis, to simulate impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and subsequent recovery of fish guilds. Dose-response relationships with expected oil concentrations were utilized to estimate the impact on fish growth and mortality rates. We also examine the effects of fisheries closures and impacts on recruitment. We validate predictions of the model by comparing population trends and age structure before and after the oil spill with fisheries independent data. The model suggests that recruitment effects and fishery closures had little influence on biomass dynamics. However, at the assumed level of oil concentrations and toxicity, impacts on fish mortality and growth rates were large and commensurate with observations. Sensitivity analysis suggests the biomass of large reef fish decreased by 25% to 50% in areas most affected by the spill, and biomass of large demersal fish decreased even more, by 40% to 70%. Impacts on reef and demersal forage caused starvation mortality in predators and increased reliance on pelagic forage. Impacts on the food web translated effects of the spill far away from the oiled area. Effects on age structure suggest possible delayed impacts on fishery yields. Recovery of high-turnover populations generally is predicted to occur within 10 years, but some slower-growing populations may take 30+ years to fully recover.
Project description:Asymmetrical intraguild predation (AIGP), which combines both predation and competition between predator species, is pervasive in nature with relative strengths varying by prey availability. But with species redistributions associated with climate change, the response by endemic predators within an AIGP context to changing biotic-abiotic conditions over time (i.e. seasonal and decadal) has yet to be quantified. Furthermore, little is known on AIGP dynamics in ecosystems undergoing rapid directional change such as the Arctic. Here, we investigate the flexibility of AIGP among two predators in the same trophic guild: beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), by season and over 30 years in Cumberland Sound-a system where forage fish capelin (Mallotus villosus) have recently become more available. Using stable isotopes, we illustrate different predator responses to temporal shifts in forage fish availability. On a seasonal cycle, beluga consumed less Greenland halibut and increased consumption of forage fish during summer, contrasting a constant consumption rate of forage fish by Greenland halibut year-round leading to decreased AIGP pressure between predators. Over a decadal scale (1982-2012), annual consumption of forage fish by beluga increased with a concomitant decline in the consumption of Greenland halibut, thereby indicating decreased AIGP pressure between predators in concordance with increased forage fish availability. The long-term changes of AIGP pressure between endemic predators illustrated here highlights climate-driven environmental alterations to interspecific intraguild interactions in the Arctic.