Condition of Forage Fish in Prince William Sound During the Marine Heatwave

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Changes in the body condition of a key forage fish species, Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus), are examined to understand how energy transfer to predators may have been disrupted during the recent marine heatwave in the North Pacific (late 2013 to mid 2016).

 

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Warmer temperatures can disrupt energy transfer through forage fish by raising metabolic costs and shifting the base of the food web toward lower-lipid zooplankton species. Sand lance were collected across five years that ranged in temperature from cool (summers 2012-2013) to extremely warm (summers 2014-2016) in Prince William Sound, Alaska, during July at the annual peak of lipid content. Length, energy density (kJ g-1 dry mass), and total body energy (kJ) are being measured in age-0 and age-1 sand lance. A shift in sand lance body condition may link warming water conditions with predator responses to the heatwave including seabird breeding failures and the 2015-16 die-off of starving common murres (Uria aalge). This work is part of the Gulf Watch Alaska Monitoring Program of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

 

Pacific sand lance in a sieve from a purse seine in Prince William Sound

Pacific sand lance in a colander that were captured in a small purse seine in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
(Credit: Sarah Schoen, USGS. Public domain.)

2 Black-legged Kittiwakes, one captured Pacific sand lance

2 Black-legged Kittiwakes, one captured 2 Pacific sand lance.
(Credit: Sarah Schoen, USGS. Public domain.)

Closer view of setting a small purse seine in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Closer view of setting a small purse seine to catch Pacific sand lance in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
​​​​​​​(Credit: Mayumi Arimitsu, USGS. Public domain.)