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THRESHOLDS: How does climate affect baby herring in the North Sea?



THRESHOLDS: Disentangling the effects of climate-driven processes on North Sea herring recruitment through physiological thresholds

Climate variability and change directly and indirectly affect the distribution and productivity of marine fishes including commercially important fish species. Most of the alterations in productivity are thought to be driven by changes in growth and survival of the fish early life stages. We aim at a better mechanistic understanding of how bottom-up processes (e.g. temperature, prey) impact larval vital rates (e.g. survival, growth) by using North Sea herring as a case study.


North Sea herring represents a perfect case study, as increased larval mortality in the last decade has been related to changes in temperature and prey abundance/composition, but the mechanisms behind these changes remain unknown. THRESHOLDS will contribute to close these knowledge gaps by:

1) measuring physiological indicators of the performance of laboratory-reared and field-caught larvae

2) resolving prey fields experienced by larvae during their first months of life

3) integrating these laboratory and field data to a model to examine bottom-up drivers of larval mortality. We will combine results from the laboratory experiments, field surveys and model simulations in order to:

  • determine the impact of prey type, size and abundance on larval herring physiology under controlled laboratory conditions

  • estimate and analyses zooplankton dynamics in the North Sea during fall- and wintertime

  • estimate the energetic cost of feeding at suboptimal prey fields in herring larvae under controlled laboratory conditions, and uses IBM simulations to quantify the importance of suboptimal feeding to overall larval survival

  • Explores bottom-up regulation impacting larval herring growth and survival under different climatic conditions

Results of the project will provide new insights into the zooplankton-ichthyoplankton link and optimal foraging theory in fish larvae.


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Universität Hamburg
    (Hamburg, Deutschland)
  • Wageningen Marine Research
    (Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB Wageningen,, Niederlande)


9.2018 - 8.2021

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing