Regime Shift in an Exploited Fish Community Related to Natural Climate Oscillations

Type Publication
Date 2015-07
Language English
Copyright 2015 Auber et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Author(s) Auber Arnaud1, Travers-Trolet MorganeORCID1, Villanueva Ching-MariaORCID2, Ernande BrunoORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Lab Ressources Halieut, F-62321 Boulogne Sur Mer, France.
2 : IFREMER, Unite Sci & Technol, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
Source Plos One (1932-6203) (Public Library Science), 2015-07 , Vol. 10 , N. 7 , P. -
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0129883
WOS© Times Cited 4
Abstract Identifying the various drivers of marine ecosystem regime shifts and disentangling their respective influence are critical tasks for understanding biodiversity dynamics and properly managing exploited living resources such as marine fish communities. Unfortunately, the mechanisms and forcing factors underlying regime shifts in marine fish communities are still largely unknown although climate forcing and anthropogenic pressures such as fishing have been suggested as key determinants. Based on a 24-year-long time-series of scientific surveys monitoring 55 fish and cephalopods species, we report here a rapid and persistent structural change in the exploited fish community of the eastern English Channel from strong to moderate dominance of small-bodied forage fish species with low temperature preferendum that occurred in the mid-1990s. This shift was related to a concomitant warming of the North Atlantic Ocean as attested by a switch of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation from a cold to a warm phase. Interestingly, observed changes in the fish community structure were opposite to those classically induced by exploitation as larger fish species of higher trophic level increased in abundance. Despite not playing a direct role in the regime shift, fishing still appeared as a forcing factor affecting community structure. Moreover, although related to climate, the regime shift may have been facilitated by strong historic exploitation that certainly primed the system by favoring the large dominance of small-bodied fish species that are particularly sensitive to climatic variations. These results emphasize that particular attention should be paid to multidecadal natural climate variability and its interactions with both fishing and climate warming when aiming at sustainable exploitation and ecosystem conservation.
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