Biophysical transport model suggests climate variability determines distribution of Walleye Pollock early life stages in the eastern Bering Sea through effects on spawning Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. The eastern Bering Sea recently experienced an anomalously warm period followed by an anomalously cold period. These periods varied with respect to sea ice extent, water temperature, wind patterns, and ocean circulation. The distributions of Walleye Pollock early life stages also differed between periods, with larval stages found further eastward on the shelf in warm years. Statistical analyses indicated that these spatial distributions were more closely related to temperature than to other covariates, though a mechanism has not been identified. The objective of this study was to determine if variable transport could be driving the observed differences in pollock distributions. An individual-based model of pollock early life stages was developed by coupling a hydrodynamic model to a particle-tracking model with biology and behavior. Simulation experiments were performed with the model to investigate the effects of wind on transport, ice presence on time of spawning, and water temperature on location of spawning. This modeling approach benefited from the ability to individually test mechanisms to quantitatively assess the impact of each on the distribution of pollock. Neither interannual variability in advection nor advances or delays in spawning time could adequately represent the observed differences in distribution between warm and cold years. Changes to spawning areas, particularly spatial contractions of spawning areas in cold years, resulted in modeled distributions that were most similar to observations. The location of spawning pollock in reference to cross-shelf circulation patterns is important in determining the distribution of eggs and larvae, warranting further study on the relationship between spawning adults and the physical environment. The different distributions of pollock early life stages between warm and cold years may ultimately affect recruitment by influencing the spatial overlap of pollock juveniles with prey and predators.

author list (cited authors)

  • Petrik, C. M., Duffy-Anderson, J. T., Mueter, F., Hedstrom, K., & Curchitser, E. N.

citation count

  • 15

publication date

  • November 2015