Near the coasts of Peru and Chile, the Humboldt Current ecosystem is the world’s most productive fishing zone. This cold-current zone, with frequent coastal upwellings (2), occupies less than 1 % of the world’s ocean surface and provides 15 to 20 % of global maritime catches.
Unlike other large regions of upwelling, this ecosystem proves to be more exposed to variations in climate. Its geographical location brings it under the direct influence of disturbances generated by the El Niño-La Niña events which arise every 3 to 7 years.
Other climatic cycles, called El Viejo-La Vieja by reference to the first two, also bear influence, but on a longer time-scale with a period of about 50 years. Large-scale alternation of abundance of sardine and anchovy populations corresponds to these warm (El Viejo) and cold (La Vieja) climatic regimes. At smaller scale, the El Niño events would induce massive die-offs in anchovy, adapted to cold, nutrient-rich coastal waters, whereas the populations of sardine (and of other species like jack mackerel or mackerel), which live in the warmer waters, would experience an upsurge in numbers during or just after these episodes.
Marie Guillaume | alfa
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