Ecotypes as a concept for exploring responses to climate change in fish assemblages

George H. Engelhard, Jim R. Ellis, Mark Payne, Remment ter Hofstede, John K. Pinnegar

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How do species-rich fish assemblages respond to climate change or to other anthropogenic or environmental drivers? To explore this, a categorization concept is presented whereby species are assigned with respect to six ecotype classifications, according to biogeography, horizontal and vertical habitat preference, trophic guild, trophic level, or body size. These classification schemes are termed ecotypology, and the system is applied to fish in the North Sea using International Bottom Trawl Survey data. Over the period 1977–2008, there were changes in the North Sea fish community that can be related to fish ecotypes. Broadly speaking, there were steady increases in abundance of species that were either Lusitanian, small-bodied, or low-/mid-trophic-level ecotypes, and generally declining or only marginally increasing trends of most Boreal, large-bodied, or high-trophic-level ecotypes or combinations of them. The post-1989 warm biological regime appears to have favoured pelagic species more than demersal species. These community-level patterns agree with the expected responses of ecotypes to climate change and also with anticipated vulnerability to fishing pressure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)580-591
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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