Using a spatially structured life cycle model to assess the influence of multiple stressors on an exploited coastal-nursery-dependent population

Abstract : Exploited coastal-nursery-dependent fish species are subject to various stressors occurring at specific stages of the life cycle: climate-driven variability in hydrography determines the success of the first eggs/larvae stages; coastal nursery habitat suitability controls juvenile growth and survival; and fisheries target mostly adults. A life cycle approach was used to quantify the relative influence of these stressors on the Eastern English Channel (EEC) population of the common sole (Solea solea), a coastal-nursery-dependent flatfish population which sustains important fisheries. The common sole has a complex life cycle: after eggs hatch, larvae spend several weeks drifting in open water. Survivors go on to metamorphose into benthic fish. Juveniles spend the first two years of their life in coastal and estuarine nurseries. Close to maturation, they migrate to deeper areas, where different subpopulations supplied by different nurseries reproduce and are exploited by fisheries. A spatially structured age-and stage-based hierarchical Bayesian model integrating various aspects of ecological knowledge, data sources and expert knowledge was built to quantitatively describe this complex life cycle. The model included the low connectivity among three subpopulations in the EEC, the influence of hydrographic variability, the availability of suitable juvenile habitat and fisheries. Scenarios were designed to quantify the effects of interacting stressors on population renewal. Results emphasized the importance of coastal nursery habitat availability and quality for the population renewal. Realistic restoration scenarios of the highly degraded Seine estuary produced a two-third increase in catch potential for the adjacent subpopulation. Fisheries, however, remained the main source of population depletion. Setting fishing mortality to the maximum sustainable yield led to substantial increases in biomass (+100%) and catch (+33%) at the EEC scale. The approach also showed how climate-driven variability in hydrography is likely to interact with human pressures, e.g., overfishing increased the sensitivity to unfavourable conditions. Our results provided insights into the dynamics of numerous exploited coastal-nursery-dependent species while paving the way toward more robust advice for sustainable management of these resources.
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B. Archambault, Etienne Rivot, M. Savina, Olivier Le Pape. Using a spatially structured life cycle model to assess the influence of multiple stressors on an exploited coastal-nursery-dependent population. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Elsevier, 2018, 201, pp.95-104. ⟨10.1016/j.ecss.2015.12.009⟩. ⟨hal-01843598⟩

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