Reproduction of Baltic cod, Gadus morhua (Actinopterygii: Gadiformes: Gadidae), in the Gotland Basin: Causes of annual variability

Maris Plikshs, Hans-Harald Hinrichsen, D. Elferts, I. Sics, Georgs Kornilovs, Fritz Köster

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Background. The Gotland Basin spawning ground is one of three main spawning areas of Baltic cod, Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758. The threshold water parameters for cod development are the salinity exceeding 11‰ and the oxygen level above 2 mL· L–1. Such conditions are only present when the 11‰ isohaline is above the 2 mL· L–1 isooxygen. In such situation the water volume between the isolines is called the “suitable reproduction volume”. When the position of the isolines is reversed, the salinity and the oxygen level of the water layer demarcated by them are below the required thresholds and as such the water is unsuitable for the cod development. We refer to it as the “unsuitable reproduction volume”. The main aim of the presently reported study was to examine whether variations in suitable and unsuitable reproduction habitat estimates could explain the fl uctuations in cod recruitment. Material and methods. The suitable and unsuitable reproduction volumes in the Gotland Basin were estimated based on single point observations at three oceanographic monitoring stations using the contouring software Balthypsograph. To test the spatial hydrological heterogeneity in the Gotland Basin we used 15 observations during 1969–1995 on four stations in each of two transects. The oceanographic monitoring and demersal trawl research survey data from 1974–2012 have been used in analyses. Results. The sufficient reproduction conditions in the southern Gotland Basin persisted only until 1981. In later decades the reproduction potential of the Gotland Basin has decreased. The latest major North Sea water infl ows in 1993 and 2003 in the Central Gotland Basin formed the suitable reproduction volume below the layers where cod eggs are fl oating. A significant relation between the recruit abundance and suitable and the unsuitable reproduction volumes was found only for the Southern Gotland Basin (P < 0.03). Conclusions. We demonstrated that single-point estimates sufficiently quantify the reproduction conditions in the Gotland Basin and thus can be used for estimation of the reproduction volumes. The unsuitable reproduction volume concept can be used as an ecological indicator for egg survival probability in the Gotland Basin. However, it is too premature to re-define the concept of the suitable reproduction volume because it is applicable only to the Gotland spawning ground
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Ichthyologica et Piscatoria
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)247-258
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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