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Environmental change drives long-term recruitment and growth variation in an estuarine fish

Morrongiello, John R., Walsh, Chris T., Gray, Charles, Stocks, Jerom R. and Crook, David A. (2014). Environmental change drives long-term recruitment and growth variation in an estuarine fish. Global Change Biology,20(6):1844-1860.

Document type: Journal Article
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IRMA ID 84376995xPUB39
Title Environmental change drives long-term recruitment and growth variation in an estuarine fish
Author Morrongiello, John R.
Walsh, Chris T.
Gray, Charles
Stocks, Jerom R.
Crook, David A.
Journal Name Global Change Biology
Publication Date 2014
Volume Number 20
Issue Number 6
ISSN 1354-1013   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84900022271
Start Page 1844
End Page 1860
Total Pages 17
Place of Publication United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract How individuals respond to environmental change determines the strength and direction of biological processes like recruitment and growth that underpin population productivity. Ascertaining the relative importance of environmental factors can, however, be difficult given the numerous mechanisms through which they affect individuals. This is especially true in dynamic and complex estuarine environments. Here, we develop long-term otolith-based indices of recruitment and growth for estuary perch Percalates colonorum (Bemm River, Australia), to explore the importance of intrinsic (individual, demographic) and extrinsic (hydrologic, climatic, density-dependent) factors in driving estuarine fish productivity. Analyses involved a novel zero-inflated specification of catch curve regression and mixed effects modelling. The 39 years of recruitment and 46 years of growth data, spanning a period of environmental change including severe drought, displayed considerable inter-annual variation. Recruitment success was strongly related to high freshwater inflows during the spawning season, suggesting that these conditions act as spawning cues for adults and potentially provide favourable conditions for larvae. Individuals displayed age-dependent growth, with highest rates observed at younger ages in years characterized by warm temperatures, and to a lesser degree, greater magnitude base inflow conditions. We detected systematic among-year-class growth differences, but these were not attributable to year class strength, suggesting that environmental conditions experienced by individuals as juveniles can have long-lasting effects of greater importance to population productivity than density-dependent growth responses. The primacy of temperature in driving growth variation highlights that under-appreciated climatic variation can affect estuarine fish productivity through direct physiological and indirect food web mechanisms. We predict that climatic warming will promote individual growth in southerly populations of P. colonorum but concurrently limit recruitment due to forecast reductions in spawning season river discharge. Disparate trait responses are likely in other fishes as they respond to multiple and changing environmental drivers, making predictions of future population productivity challenging.
Keywords Climate change
Density dependence
Hierarchical model
Life history
Macquaria colonorum
Otolith biochronology
Primary and secondary production
Zero-inflated negative binomial mixed model
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