Interactions among density, climate, and food web effects determine long-term life cycle dynamics of a key copepod

Saskia A. Otto, Georgs Kornilovs, Marcos Llope, Christian Möllmann


Increasing pressure on animal populations through climate change and anthropogenic exploitation fuel the need to understand complex life cycle dynamics of key ecosystem species and their responses to external factors. Here, we provide a novel, integrative study on the long-term population dynamics of Pseudocalanus acuspes, a key species in the Baltic Sea, explicitly considering its distinct life-history stages, and testing for linear, non-linear, and non-additive climate and food web effects. Based on a unique data set of stage-specific abundance covering almost 5 decades of sampling (1960 to 2008, with 1408 samples), we use generalized additive modeling (GAM) and its respective non-additive threshold (TGAM) formulation to test for (1) density effects on subsequent life-history stages within the internal life cycle, (2) the effect of exogenous bottom-up (i.e. hydro-climatic) and top-down (i.e. predation) pressures, and (3) changes between bottom-up and top-down regulation. We show that linear density effects are always present, explaining a high proportion of interannual variability, while effects of external pressures are non-linear or non-additive and strongly stage- and season-specific. In general, younger stages of P. acuspes are more affected by atmospheric winter conditions and water temperature, whereas older stages are influenced by conditions of deepwater salinity and predation pressure. These bottom-up processes, however, are not necessarily stable, and can depend on the level of top-down predation pressure. Our study demonstrates the complex and non-stationary interplay between internal and external factors regulating long-term animal population dynamics.


Published in: Marine Ecology Progress Series, ISSN 0171-8630, E-ISSN 1616-1599, Vol. 498, 73-U408

DOI: 10.3354/meps10613

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Published Oct. 29, 2015 2:39 PM - Last modified Oct. 29, 2015 2:39 PM