Alaska Science Center
Evidence of bottom-up limitations in nearshore marine systems based on otolith proxies of fish growth
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Full Publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00227-015-2645-5
Product Type: Journal Article
Fish otolith growth increments were used as indices of annual production at nine nearshore sites within the Alaska Coastal Current (downwelling region) and California Current (upwelling region) systems (~36-60°N). Black rockfish (Sebastes melanops) and kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus) were identified as useful indicators in pelagic and benthic nearshore food webs, respectively. To examine the support for bottom-up limitations, common oceanographic indices of production [sea surface temperature (SST), upwelling, and chlorophyll-a concentration] during summer (April-September) were compared to spatial and temporal differences in fish growth using linear mixed models. The relationship between pelagic black rockfish growth and SST was positive in the cooler Alaska Coastal Current and negative in the warmer California Current. These contrasting growth responses to SST among current systems are consistent with the optimal stability window hypothesis in which pelagic production is maximized at intermediate levels of water column stability. Increased growth rates of black rockfish were associated with higher chlorophyll concentrations in the California Current only, but black rockfish growth was unrelated to the upwelling index in either current system. Benthic kelp greenling growth rates were positively associated with warmer temperatures and relaxation of downwelling (upwelling index near zero) in the Alaska Coastal Current, while none of the oceanographic indices were related to their growth in the California Current. Overall, our results are consistent with bottom-up forcing of nearshore marine ecosystems-light and nutrients constrain primary production in pelagic food webs, and temperature constrains benthic food webs.