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Influence of basin- and local-scale environmental conditions on nearshore production in the northeast Pacific Ocean

December 31, 2015

Nearshore marine habitats are productive and vulnerable owing to their connections to pelagic and terrestrial landscapes. To understand how ocean basin- and local-scale conditions may influence nearshore species, we developed an annual index of nearshore production (spanning the period 1972–2010) from growth increments recorded in otoliths of representative pelagic-feeding (Black Rockfish Sebastes melanops) and benthic-feeding (Kelp Greenling Hexagrammos decagrammus) nearshore-resident fishes at nine sites in the California Current and Alaska Coastal Current systems. We explored the influence of basin- and local-scale conditions across all seasons at lags of up to 2 years to represent changes in prey quantity (1- or 2-year time lags) and quality (within-year relationships). Relationships linking fish growth to basin-scale (Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Pacific Gyre Oscillation, and multivariate El Niño–Southern Oscillation index) and local-scale (sea surface temperature, sea surface height anomalies, upwelling index, photosynthetically active radiation, and freshwater discharge) environmental conditions varied by species and current system. Growth of Black Rockfish increased with cool basin-scale conditions in the California Current and warm local-scale conditions in the Alaska Coastal Current, consistent with existing hypotheses linking climate to pelagic production on continental shelves in the respective regions. Relationships for Kelp Greenlings in the California Current were complex, with faster growth related to within-year warm conditions and lagged-year cool conditions. These opposing, lag-dependent relationships may reflect differences in conditions that promote quantity versus quality of benthic invertebrate prey in the California Current. Thus, we hypothesize that benthic production is maximized by alternating cool and warm years, as benthic invertebrate recruitment is food limited during warm years while growth is temperature limited by cool years in the California Current. On the other hand, Kelp Greenlings grew faster during and subsequent to warm conditions at basin and local scales in the Alaska Coastal Current.