Density‐ and size‐dependent mortality in fish early life stages
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionFish and Fisheries. 2019, 20 (5), 962-976. 10.1111/faf.12391
The importance of survival and growth variations early in life for population dynamics depends on the degrees of compensatory density dependence and size dependence in survival at later life stages. Quantifying density‐ and size‐dependent mortality at different juvenile stages is therefore important to understand and potentially predict the recruitment to the population. We applied a statistical state‐space modelling approach to analyse time series of abundance and mean body size of larval and juvenile fish. The focus was to identify the importance of abundance and body size for growth and survival through successive larval and juvenile age intervals, and to quantify how the dynamics propagate through the early life to influence recruitment. We thus identified both relevant ages and mechanisms (i.e. density dependence and size dependence in survival and growth) linking recruitment variability to early life dynamics. The analysis was conducted on six economically and ecologically important fish populations from cold temperate and sub‐arctic marine ecosystems. Our results underscore the importance of size for survival early in life. The comparative analysis suggests that size‐dependent mortality and density‐dependent growth frequently occur at a transition from pelagic to demersal habitats, which may be linked to competition for suitable habitat. The generality of this hypothesis warrants testing in future research.