According to Jeremy Collie, professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, the fish community has shifted progressively from vertebrate species (fish) to invertebrates (lobsters, crabs and squid) and from benthic or demersal species – those that feed on the bottom – to pelagic species that feed higher in the water column. In addition, smaller, warm-water species have increased while larger, cool-water species have declined.
“This is a pretty dramatic change, and it’s a pattern that is being seen in other ecosystems, including offshore on Georges Bank and other continental shelf ecosystems, but we’re in the relatively unique position of being able to document it. These patterns are likely being seen in estuaries around the world, but nowhere else has similar data,” said Collie.
Results of the research by Collie and URI colleagues Anthony Wood and Perry Jeffries will be published in the July issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
The weekly trawl survey by URI scientists began in 1959 and continues to the present, making it one of the longest data sets of fish species composition available. The survey has recorded 130 species, though the analysis focused only on the top 25 species, which accounted for 96 percent of the total number of animals collected.
Collie said that while most of the changes occurred slowly, an abrupt change appeared to take place in 1980 and 1981 when benthic species like winter flounder and silver hake declined and pelagic species including butterfish and bluefish increased.
“We think there has been a shift in the food web resulting in more of the productivity being consumed in the water column,” Collie explained.
“Phytoplankton are increasingly being grazed by zooplankton, which are then eaten by planktivorous fish, rather than the phytoplankton sinking to the bottom and being consumed by bottom fish. It’s a rerouting of that production from the bottom to the top.”
Collie noted that the increase in the numbers of lobsters and crabs is a result of their taking advantage of the benthic habitat abandoned by the bottom-feeding fish species.
Overall, the survey analysis found huge changes in the abundance of some species. Butterfish and bluefish, for instance, have increased in abundance by a factor of about 100 times while cunner has decreased by almost 1,000 times.
The analysis also found that while the total number of fish caught in each trawl increased over time, peaking in the 1990s, the size of those fish decreased.
“While we’re catching more fish now, we’re also catching smaller fish,” said Collie, “and that corresponds with how the preferred temperatures of the fish here have changed. The fish community now is dominated by warm-water adapted species compared with what we started with, and fish that live in warmer water are smaller.”
Collie added that fishing may also be a factor in the decline in fish size, since fishing removes the largest individuals from a population while leaving the smaller ones. However, he believes that climate is “the dominant signal.” Sea surface temperature in the area of the trawls has increased by 2 degrees Centigrade since 1959, and the preferred temperature of the fish caught in the trawls has also increased by 2 degrees C.
“That seems to be direct evidence of global warming,” he said. “It’s hard to explain any other way.”
The shift in species composition also correlates with the winter North Atlantic Oscillation index and with chlorophyll concentrations, which declined by 50 percent, both of which are related to warmer sea temperatures.
What do these changes mean for the future of Narragansett Bay?
“Our overall prediction is that Narragansett Bay is soon going to resemble estuaries to the south of us – Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay – so we’ll experience what they are experiencing now,” Collie said. “It will continue to get warmer and attract more southern species, such as blue crabs. Species that couldn’t complete their life cycle here before may be able to do that now.”
Todd McLeish | newswise
Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut
Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).
The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research