Links between fish abundance and ocean biogeochemistry as recorded in marine sediments

Lucas Kavanagh, Eric Galbraith

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2 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Kavanagh, Galbraith. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Fish populations are linked to ocean biogeochemistry by their reliance on primary production for food, and dissolved oxygen to breathe. It is also possible that marine fish modify biogeochemical dynamics, as do freshwater fish, through top-down trophic cascades, but there has been relatively little consideration of this possibility. This lack of consideration may reflect a lack of importance; alternatively, it may simply reflect the lack of appropriate observations with which to constrain such relationships. Here, we draw attention to the potential use of marine sediments as long-term simultaneous monitors of both fish abundance and marine biogeochemical dynamics. We compile published sediment proxy records of fish abundance from the west coasts of the Americas, and compare them with biogeochemical proxy measurements made at the same sites. Despite the challenges of using sediment records and the potential convolution of ecological and climatic signals, we find a small number of statistically significant relationships between fish debris and biogeochemical variables, at least some of which are likely to reflect causal relationships. Considering TOC, the most commonly-measured biogeochemical variable, some positive correlations with fish abundance are found, consistent with bottom-up control of fish abundance by primary production, or a planktivore-herbivore-phytoplankton trophic cascade. Negative correlations are also found, which could reflect sedimentary processes, the influence of upwelling-driven oxygen and nutrient dynamics on primary production and fish populations, and/or impacts of fish stocks on carbon fluxes by altering the recycling of carbon within the water column. Although the number of available measurements is too small to draw strong conclusions, the results point to plausible cases of bottom-up forcing, trophic cascades, and influence of dissolved oxygen concentrations on fish habitat.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199420
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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