Warming temperatures and smaller body sizes: synchronous changes in growth of North Sea fishes

TitleWarming temperatures and smaller body sizes: synchronous changes in growth of North Sea fishes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBaudron, AR, Needle, CL, Rijnsdorp, AD, C. Marshall, T
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Pagination1023 - 1031
Date Published04/2014
ISBN Number1354-1013
Keywordsclimate change, dynamic Factor Analysis, ectotherms, fish growth, fisheries, temperature size rule, von Bertalanffy

Decreasing body size has been proposed as a universal response to increasing temperatures. The physiology behind the response is well established for ectotherms inhabiting aquatic environments: as higher temperatures decrease the aerobic capacity, individuals with smaller body sizes have a reduced risk of oxygen deprivation. However, empirical evidence of this response at the scale of communities and ecosystems is lacking for marine fish species. Here, we show that over a 40‐year period six of eight commercial fish species in the North Sea examined underwent concomitant reductions in asymptotic body size with the synchronous component of the total variability coinciding with a 1–2 °C increase in water temperature. Smaller body sizes decreased the yield‐per‐recruit of these stocks by an average of 23%. Although it is not possible to ascribe these phenotypic changes unequivocally to temperature, four aspects support this interpretation: (i) the synchronous trend was detected across species varying in their life history and life style; (ii) the decrease coincided with the period of increasing temperature; (iii) the direction of the phenotypic change is consistent with physiological knowledge; and (iv) no cross‐species synchrony was detected in other species‐specific factors potentially impacting growth. Our findings support a recent model‐derived prediction that fish size will shrink in response to climate‐induced changes in temperature and oxygen. The smaller body sizes being projected for the future are already detectable in the North Sea.

Short TitleGlobal Change Biology