Mesopelagic fish assemblages across oceanic fronts: A comparison of three frontal systems in the southern California Current Ecosystem

TitleMesopelagic fish assemblages across oceanic fronts: A comparison of three frontal systems in the southern California Current Ecosystem
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsNetburn A.N, Koslow JA
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers
Date Published2018/04
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0967-0637
Accession NumberWOS:000437817600009
Keywordsabundance; carbon export; community structure; diaphus-theta; diel vertical migration; ensenada front; oceanography; thermal fronts; transitional waters; western north pacific; zone

With strong horizontal gradients in physical properties, oceanic frontal regions can lead to disproportionately high biological productivity. We examined cross-frontal changes in mesopelagic fish assemblages at three separate frontal systems in the southern California Current Ecosystem (CCE) as part of the CCE Long Term Ecological Research program: the A-Front sampled in October 2008, the C-Front in June/July 2011, and the E-Front in July/August 2012. We analyzed the differential effects of front-associated regions on density and species composition of adult migratory and non-migratory fishes and larvae, and the larval to adult ratio (as a possible index of a population growth potential) for migratory and non-migratory species. The fronts did not have a strong effect on densities of any subset of the mesopelagic fish assemblage. The species composition of the vertical migratory fishes (and their larvae) was typically altered across fronts, with different assemblages present on either side of each front. The migratory assemblages at the fronts themselves were indistinguishable from those at the more productive side of the frontal system. In contrast, the assemblage composition of the non-migratory fishes was indistinguishable between regions across all three of the fronts. The differences between the Northern and Southern assemblages at the A-Front were primarily based on biogeographic provinces, while the assemblages at the E-Front were largely distinguishable by their oceanic or coastal-upwelling zone associations. These results generally confirm those of previous studies on frontal systems in the California Current Ecosystem and elsewhere. The ratio of larvae to adults, a potential index of population growth potential, was altered across two of the fronts for migratory species, elevated on the colder side of the A-Front and the warmer side of the E-Front. This finding suggests that fronts may be regions of enhanced reproduction. The larvae to adult ratio was indistinguishable for non-migratory species at all three frontal systems. The non-migratory component of the community was little influenced by the presence of a front, apparently because the regions of strongest horizontal spatial gradients were too shallow to be experienced directly. We speculate that there was no change in larval community composition and population growth index at the most dynamic frontal system (C-Front) compared to the other fronts surveyed because the frontal feature was short-lived relative to the time scale for population growth of the fish. However, the difference in results of the C-Front may also be due to a change in methodology used in this study. If mesoscale features such as fronts increase in frequency off the California coast in the future as predicted, they have the potential to alter population growth potential and restructure mesopelagic fish assemblages, which are dominated by migratory species.

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