National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Possible mechanism linking ocean conditions to low body weight and poor recruitment of age-0 walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) in the southeast Bering Sea during 2007

Gann, J.C., L.B. Eisner, S. Porter, J.T. Watson, K.D. Cieciel, C.W. Mordy, E.M. Yasumiishi, P.J. Stabeno, C. Ladd, R.A. Heintz, and E.V. Farley

Deep-Sea Res. II, 134, 115–127, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.07.010, Understanding Ecosystem Processes in the Eastern Bering Sea IV (2016)

Changes to physical and chemical oceanographic structure can lead to changes in phytoplankton biomass and growth, which, in-turn, lead to variability in the amount of energy available for transfer to higher trophic levels (e.g., forage fish). In general, age-0 (juvenile) walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) have been shown to have low fitness (determined by energy density and size), in warm years compared to average or cold years in the southeastern Bering Sea. Contrary to these findings, the year 2007 was a cold year with low fitness of age-0 pollock compared to the transition year of 2006 (transitioning from warm to cold conditions) and cold years, 2008–2011. In late summer/early fall (mid-August through September), significantly lower surface silicic acid concentrations coupled with low phytoplankton production and chlorophyll a (Chl a) biomass were observed in 2007 among 2006–2012 (P<0.05). We postulate that the low silicic acid concentrations may be an indication of reduced surface nutrient flux during summer, leading to low primary productivity (PP). The nutrient replenishing shelf/slope water exchange that occurred during late October–February (2006–2007) indicates that deep-water nutrient/salinity reserves for the start of the 2007 growing season were plentiful and had similar concentrations to other years (2006–2012). The spring bloom magnitude appeared to be slightly below average, and surface silicic acid concentrations at the end of the spring bloom period in 2007 appeared similar to other years in the middle domain of the southeastern Bering Sea. However, during summer (June–August) 2007, high stratification and the low number of storm events resulted in low flux of nutrients to surface waters, indicated by the low surface silicic acid concentrations at the end of summer (mid-August through September). Surface silicic acid may be useful as an indicator of surface nutrient enrichment (and subsequent PP) during summer since other macronutrients (e.g. nitrate) are usually near or below detection limits at this time, and diatoms are generally scarce during summer. Surface silicic acid concentration was also positively associated with the size of juvenile fish (age-0 pollock weight and length). This reinforces the theory that nutrient availability and primary productivity are important to energy allocation for higher trophic levels during summer, and possibly provides links between stratification and wind mixing, surface nutrient input, PP and juvenile fish size and condition.

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