Will most suitable spawning grounds for coastal fishes be impacted by climate change? A larval drift modelling approach

For many fishes, their early life stages are transported (passively) by currents between spawning areas and coastal nurseries, but also potential dispersal towards new habitats. Therefore, species have developed strategies to enhance the recruitment success, including the selection of appropriate spawning grounds. However, increased temperature due to climate change may lead to changes in hydrodynamics, shorter larval drifts, and earlier spawning, and consequently the location of the most suitable spawning grounds may change. We investigated whether the location of the most favourable spawning areas (allowing higher rates of larvae reaching coastal nurseries) was stable over time, and if differences could be found between environmentally contrasted years. We used a larval drift model taking into account hydrodynamics, larval characteristics and behaviour for three commercially exploited fish species (sole Solea solea, flounder Platichthys flesus and seabass Dicentrarchus labrax) in the Western Europe (encompassing the Bay of Biscay, the Celtic Sea and the English Channel). According to our model, we conclude that despite contrasting environmental conditions, the location of spawning grounds allowing the best chance of recruitment to nurseries for the offspring was fairly similar. However, even if the location of the main spawning grounds is stable over time, their relative effectiveness varies greatly between years. This would suggest that natural selection may favour the emergence of homing behaviour. This stability in this fish essential habitat location could facilitate protection measures. Going further, it could be interesting to study the variations occurring in spawning grounds (in terms of recruitment success, and retention/dispersion) during the course of a spawning season.


Larval drift models, Fish larvae, Spawning grounds, Climatic changes, Hydrodynamics

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Silve Violette, Cabral Henrique, Huret Martin, Drouineau Hilaire (2024). Will most suitable spawning grounds for coastal fishes be impacted by climate change? A larval drift modelling approach. Estuarine Coastal And Shelf Science. 297. 108584 (12p.). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2023.108584, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00868/98008/

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