Spatio-temporal variation in the zooplankton prey of lesser sandeels: species and community trait patterns from the continuous plankton recorder

Agnes B. Olin, Neil S. Banas, David G. Johns, Michael R. Heath, Peter J. Wright, Ruedi G. Nager

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Abstract

The phenology, distribution, and size composition of plankton communities are changing rapidly in response to warming. This may lead to shifts in the prey fields of planktivorous fish, which play a key role in transferring energy up marine food chains. Here, we use 60 + years of Continuous Plankton Recorder data to explore temporal trends in key taxa and community traits in the prey field of planktivorous lesser sandeels (Ammodytes marinus) in the North Sea, the Faroes and southern Iceland. We found marked spatial variation in the prey field, with Calanus copepods generally being much more common in the northern part of the study area. In the western North Sea, the estimated amount of available energy in the prey field has decreased by more than 50% since the 1960s. This decrease was accompanied by declining abundances of small copepods, and shifts in the timing of peak annual prey abundances. Further, the estimated average prey community body size has increased in several of the locations considered. Overall, our results point to the importance of regional studies of prey fields, and caution against inferring ecological consequences based only on large-scale trends in key taxa or mean community traits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsac101
Pages (from-to)1649-1661
Number of pages13
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume79
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • forage fish
  • zooplankton
  • sandeel
  • sand lance
  • Calanus finmarchicus
  • NE Atlantic

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