Impacts of climate change on the body size of horse mackerel in the North Sea
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
Clear biogeographic trends persist in the body sizes of individuals in marine communities, with smaller species and individuals within species found in warmer waters. Based on this trend (Bergmann’s Rule), communities undergoing warming at a given location are likely to become more representative of body sizes seen in warmer waters. Using fisheries independent North Sea survey data with established catchability corrections, we investigated the effect of 30 years of warming on average size and species size distributions. We found, as an example, that horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) is consistent with Bergmann’s Rule, with larger average sizes seen at higher latitudes. Over 30 years a significant decline in average size has occurred at several latitudes. Using a Eulerian (grid based) approach and dividing the North Sea into 82 1° x 1° cells, 56% of cells displayed size distributions shifting towards populations with higher proportions of smaller individuals. Changing size distribution correlated significantly with warming over the study period. Horse mackerel’s northern range is in the northern North Sea, indicating populations at species range boundaries may be most affected by further warming. This finding warrants further work on a wider number of species. Changing body sizes and shifts in size distributions has implications for ecosystem functioning, trophic level dynamics and the value of fisheries.
ICES Annual Science Conference, 2013, Reykjavik, Iceland