Climate, fishing, and fluctuations of sardine and anchovy in the California Current

Martin Lindegren, David M. Checkley, Tristan Rouyer, Alec D. MacCall, Nils Chr Stenseth

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Since the days of Elton, population cycles have challenged ecologists and resource managers. Although the underlying mechanisms remain debated, theory holds that both density-dependent and density-independent processes shape the dynamics. One striking example is the large-scale fluctuations of sardine and anchovy observed across the major upwelling areas of the world. Despite a long history of research, the causes of these fluctuations remain unresolved and heavily debated, with significant implications for fisheries management. We here model the underlying causes of these fluctuations, using the California Current Ecosystem as a case study, and show that the dynamics, accurately reproduced since A.D. 1661 onward, are explained by interacting density-dependent processes (i.e., through species-specific life-history traits) and climate forcing. Furthermore, we demonstrate how fishing modifies the dynamics and show that the sardine collapse of the 1950s was largely unavoidable given poor recruitment conditions. Our approach provides unique insight into the origin of sardine-anchovy fluctuations and a knowledge base for sustainable fisheries management in the California Current Ecosystem and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America
Issue number33
Pages (from-to)13672-13677
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Climate
  • Computer Simulation
  • Ecosystem
  • Fisheries
  • Fishes
  • Models, Biological
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Species Specificity
  • species replacement
  • population modeling
  • climate change
  • ecosystem-based management
  • California Current Ecosystem
  • fisheries management
  • fishing parameter
  • species density
  • species fluctuation
  • species-specific life-history trait
  • Pisces Vertebrata Chordata Animalia (Animals, Chordates, Fish, Nonhuman Vertebrates, Vertebrates) - Osteichthyes [85206] Sardinops sagax species sardine common commercial species, protected species Engraulis mordax species anchovy common commercial species, protected species
  • 00512, General biology - Conservation and resource management
  • 07502, Ecology: environmental biology - General and methods
  • 07504, Ecology: environmental biology - Bioclimatology and biometeorology
  • 07508, Ecology: environmental biology - Animal
  • 07512, Ecology: environmental biology - Oceanography
  • 07516, Ecology: environmental biology - Wildlife management: aquatic
  • 62800, Animal distribution
  • Conservation
  • Ecology, Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Population Studies
  • model analysis mathematical and computer techniques
  • Aquaculture
  • Biogeography
  • Climatology
  • Marine Ecology
  • Wildlife Management
  • anchovy
  • article
  • biomass
  • environmental management
  • fishing
  • life history trait
  • marine environment
  • nonhuman
  • priority journal
  • sardine
  • spawning
  • Climate change
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Population modeling
  • Species replacement
  • Biological Sciences
  • Population Biology

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