The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) has been overexploited in the North Sea since the late 1960s and great concern has been expressed about the decline in cod biomass and recruitment1. Here we show that, in addition to the effects of overfishing1, fluctuations in plankton have resulted in long-term changes in cod recruitment in the North Sea (bottom-up control). Survival of larval cod is shown to depend on three key biological parameters of their prey: the mean size of prey, seasonal timing and abundance. We suggest a mechanism, involving the match/mismatch hypothesis2, by which variability in temperature affects larval cod survival and conclude that rising temperature since the mid-1980s has modified the plankton ecosystem in a way that reduces the survival of young cod.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Cook, R. M., Sinclair, A. & Stefansson, G. Potential collapse of North Sea cod stocks. Nature 385, 521–522 (1997)
Cushing, D. H. Plankton production and year-class strength in fish populations: an update of the match/mismatch hypothesis. Adv. Mar. Biol. 26, 249–292 (1990)
Pope, J. G. & Macer, C. T. An evaluation of the stock structure of North Sea cod, haddock, and whiting since 1920, together with a consideration of the impacts of fisheries and predation effects on their biomass and recruitment. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 53, 1157–1169 (1996)
Brander, K. M. Effects of environmental variability on growth and recruitment in cod (Gadus morhua) using a comparative approach. Oceanol. Acta 23, 485–496 (2000)
Munk, P. Prey size spectra and prey availability of larval and small juvenile cod. J. Fish Biol. 51 (suppl. A), 340–351 (1997)
Rothschild, B. J. Year class strengths of zooplankton in the North Sea and their relation to cod and herring abundance. J. Plankton Res. 20, 1721–1741 (1998)
ICES Cooperative Research Report Report of the Workshop on Gadoid Stocks in the North Sea during the 1960s and the 1970s. 4th ICES/GLOBEC Backward-facing Workshop (eds Heath, M. R. & Brander, K. M.) (ICES, Copenhagen, 2001)
Myers, R. A., Hutchings, J. A. & Barrowman, N. J. Hypotheses for the decline of cod in the North Atlantic. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 138, 293–308 (1996)
Thorisson, K. The food of larvae and pelagic juveniles of cod (Gadus morhua L.) in the coastal waters west of Iceland. Rapp. P.-v. Reun. Cons. Perm. Int. Explor. Mer. 191, 264–272 (1989)
Warner, A. J. & Hays, G. C. Sampling by the continuous plankton recorder survey. Prog. Oceanogr. 34, 237–256 (1994)
Cushing, D. H. The gadoid outburst in the North Sea. J. Cons. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer. 41, 159–166 (1984)
Letcher, B. H., Rice, J. A., Crowder, J. A. & Rose, K. A. Variability in survival of larval fish: disentangling components with a generalized individual based model. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 53, 787–801 (1996)
Ricker, W. E. Stock and recruitment. J. Fisher. Res. Bd Can. 11, 559–623 (1954)
ICES Cooperative Research Report. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fish Management (ICES, Copenhagen, 2002)
Bollens, S. M. et al. Seasonal plankton cycles in a temperate fjord and comments on the match-mismatch hypothesis. J. Plankton Res. 14, 1279–1305 (1992)
Gotceitas, V., Puvanendran, V., Leader, L. L. & Brown, J. A. An experimental investigation of the match/mismatch hypothesis using larval Atlantic cod. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 130, 29–37 (1996)
Cushing, D. H. Towards a Science of Recruitment in Fish Populations (Ecology Institute, Oldendorf/Luhe, 1997)
Platt, T., Fuentes-Yaco, C. & Frank, K. T. Spring algal bloom and larval fish survival. Nature 423, 398–399 (2003)
Beaugrand, G., Reid, P. C., Ibañez, F., Lindley, J. A. & Edwards, M. Reorganisation of North Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate. Science 296, 1692–1694 (2002)
Beaugrand, G. & Reid, P. C. Long-term changes in phytoplankton, zooplankton and salmon linked to climate. Glob. Change Biol. 9, 801–817 (2003)
Mauchline, J. & Fisher, L. R. The biology of euphausiids. Adv. Mar. Biol. 7, 1–454 (1969)
Reid, P. C., Borges, M. & Svendsen, E. A regime shift in the North Sea circa 1988 linked to changes in the North Sea horse mackerel fishery. Fish. Res. 50, 163–171 (2001)
Otterlei, E., Nyhammer, G., Folkword, A. & Stefansson, S. O. Temperature- and size-dependent growth of larval and early juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua): a comparative study of Norwegian coastal cod and northeast Arctic cod. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 56, 2099–2111 (1999)
Swain, D. P. et al. Density- versus temperature-dependent growth of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Scotian Shelf. Fish. Res. 59, 327–341 (2003)
Pepin, P. An appraisal of the size-dependent mortality hypothesis for larval fish: comparison of a multispecies study with an empirical review. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 50, 2166–2174 (1993)
Gallego, A. & Heath, M. The effect of growth-dependent mortality, external environment and internal dynamics on larval fish otolith growth: an individual-based modelling approach. J. Fish Biol. 51 (suppl. A), 121–134 (1997)
Mauchline, J. The Biology of Calanoid Copepods (Academic, San Diego, 1998)
Peters, H. The Biological Implication of Body Size (Cambridge Univ., Cambridge, 1983)
Shepherd, J. G. Extended survivors analysis: an improved method for the analysis of catch-at-age data and abundance indices. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 56, 584–591 (1996)
Vautard, R. P. Y. & Ghil, M. Singular-spectrum analysis: a toolkit for short, noisy chaotic signals. Physica D 58, 95–126 (1992)
We are grateful to all past and present members and supporters of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science whose sustained help has allowed the establishment and maintenance of the CPR data set in the long term. The main support of this work was from UK DEFRA, and both the French PNEC Art 4 and IFB ‘Biodiversité et changement global’ programmes. Consortium support for the CPR survey is provided by agencies from the following countries: UK, USA, Canada, the Faroe Islands, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, the IOC and the European Union. We thank the owners, masters and crews of the ships that tow the CPRs on a voluntary basis.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Beaugrand, G., Brander, K., Alistair Lindley, J. et al. Plankton effect on cod recruitment in the North Sea. Nature 426, 661–664 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02164
Seasonal variation in UVA light drives hormonal and behavioural changes in a marine annelid via a ciliary opsin
Nature Ecology & Evolution (2021)
Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers (2021)
Impact of the Strong Downwelling (Upwelling) on Small Pelagic Fish Production during the 2016 (2019) Negative (Positive) Indian Ocean Dipole Events in the Eastern Indian Ocean off Java
Omega-3 nutraceuticals, climate change and threats to the environment: The cases of Antarctic krill and Calanus finmarchicus