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Otolith microstructure reveals ecological and oceanographic processes important to ecosystem-based management

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Abstract

Information obtained from fish otoliths has been a critical component of fisheries management for decades. The nature of this information has changed over time as management goals and approaches have shifted. The earliest and still most pervasively used data are those of annual age and growth used to calculate the demographic rates of populations in single-species management strategies. Over time, the absence of simple stock-recruitment relationships has focused attention on the youngest stages, where otolith microstructure resolved on a daily basis has become a valuable tool. As management has transitioned to more ecosystem-based approaches, the need to understand ecological and oceanographic processes has been advanced through the analysis of daily otolith microstructure. Recent field examples illustrate how otolith microstructure data have been used to reveal environmental influences on larval growth, traits that lead to higher survivorship, mechanisms of larval transport, dynamics of dispersal and population connectivity, determinants of recruitment magnitude, carry-over processes between life stages, habitat-specific juvenile survival, and identification of natal sources. Daily otolith-derived data collected at an individual level are increasingly combined with data from other disciplines and incorporated into individual-based models, which in turn can form the building blocks of complex models of ecosystem dynamics. A mechanistic understanding of the ecology of young stages is particularly necessary in light of a rapidly changing ocean environment, as we need to be able to predict individual and population responses to perturbations. Otolith microstructure analysis is an important tool in our management arsenal, contributing to a broader understanding of the oceanographic and ecological processes underlying ecosystem dynamics.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. The term ‘recruitment’ is used loosely to indicate entry of young into the population. For many studies cited here, this entry point refers to the transition from larvae to juveniles and is measured at some point during juvenile life. For studies of more commercially important fishery species, ‘recruitment’ may refer to the point when fish appear in the fishery.

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Acknowledgements

I thank the conference organizers, particularly Churchill Grimes, Susan Sogard, Brian Wells, and Gregor Cailliet, for their invitation and support of my attendance and presentation of the keynote address on which this paper was based. I also thank the many laboratory members and colleagues who participated in some of the studies cited here. Rafael Araújo lent advice on aspects of manuscript and figure format and Fredi Arthur assisted with references. Robert Cowen, Joel Llopiz, Dave Secor, and an anonymous reviewer provided insightful comments that greatly improved the manuscript. Finally, I was supported by National Science Foundation OCE-0550732 during the preparation of this presentation and paper.

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Correspondence to Su Sponaugle.

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Sponaugle, S. Otolith microstructure reveals ecological and oceanographic processes important to ecosystem-based management. Environ Biol Fish 89, 221–238 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-010-9676-z

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