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Changes over 50 years in fish fauna of a temperate coastal sea: Degradation of trophic structure and nursery function
van der Veer, H.W.; Dapper, R.; Henderson, P.A.; Jung, A.S.; Philippart, C.J.M.; Witte, J.IJ.; Zuur, A.F. (2015). Changes over 50 years in fish fauna of a temperate coastal sea: Degradation of trophic structure and nursery function. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 155: 156-166. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2014.12.041
In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0272-7714, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    fish fauna; long-term changes; long-term changes; coastal area; Wadden Sea; climate change; habitat destruction; top predators; NAO index

Authors  Top 
  • van der Veer, H.W., more
  • Dapper, R.
  • Henderson, P.A.
  • Jung, A.S., more
  • Philippart, C.J.M., more
  • Witte, J.IJ., more
  • Zuur, A.F.

Abstract
    The ongoing daily sampling programme of the fish fauna in the Dutch Wadden Sea using fixed gear was analysed for the years 1960–2011. Spring sampling caught immigrating fish from the coastal zone and autumn samples reflected emigration of young-of-the-year. In total 82 fish species were caught with no clear trend in biodiversity. In both spring and autumn total daily catch fluctuated and peaked in the late 1970s. From 1980 to the present catches of both pelagic and demersal species showed a 10-fold decrease in total biomass. Mean individual biomass decreased in spring between 1980 and the present from about 150 to 20 g wet weight. No trend was found in autumn mean individual biomass which fluctuated around 20 g wet weight. The trophic structure remained constant for both the demersal and benthopelagic fish fauna from 1980 to 2011, whilst the trophic position of pelagic fish in spring fell from about 3.9 to 3.1. Min/max auto-correlation factor analysis showed similar trends in spring and autumn species biomass time series: the first axis represented a decrease from the 1960s followed by stabilization from the mid-1990s. The second trend showed an increase with a maximum around 1980 followed by a steady decrease in spring and a decrease and stabilization from 2000 in autumn. It is argued that the most likely explanatory variables are a combination of external factors: increased water temperature, habitat destruction in the coastal zone (sand dredging and beach nourishment, fishing) and increased predation by top predators for the first trend, and large-scale hydrodynamic circulation for the second trend. We conclude that both the trophic structure of the coastal zone fauna and the nursery function of the Wadden Sea have been reduced since the 1980s. Our findings corroborate that ecological change in coastal ecosystems has not only occurred in the past but still continues.

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