Estuarine fish communities respond to climate variability over both river and ocean basins

Global Change Biology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Estuaries are dynamic environments at the land–sea interface that are strongly affected by interannual climate variability. Ocean–atmosphere processes propagate into estuaries from the sea, and atmospheric processes over land propagate into estuaries from watersheds. We examined the effects of these two separate climate-driven processes on pelagic and demersal fish community structure along the salinity gradient in the San Francisco Estuary, California, USA. A 33-year data set (1980–2012) on pelagic and demersal fishes spanning the freshwater to marine regions of the estuary suggested the existence of five estuarine salinity fish guilds: limnetic (salinity = 0–1), oligohaline (salinity = 1–12), mesohaline (salinity = 6–19), polyhaline (salinity = 19–28), and euhaline (salinity = 29–32). Climatic effects propagating from the adjacent Pacific Ocean, indexed by the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO), affected demersal and pelagic fish community structure in the euhaline and polyhaline guilds. Climatic effects propagating over land, indexed as freshwater outflow from the watershed (OUT), affected demersal and pelagic fish community structure in the oligohaline, mesohaline, polyhaline, and euhaline guilds. The effects of OUT propagated further down the estuary salinity gradient than the effects of NPGO that propagated up the estuary salinity gradient, exemplifying the role of variable freshwater outflow as an important driver of biotic communities in river-dominated estuaries. These results illustrate how unique sources of climate variability interact to drive biotic communities and, therefore, that climate change is likely to be an important driver in shaping the future trajectory of biotic communities in estuaries and other transitional habitats.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estuarine fish communities respond to climate variability over both river and ocean basins
Series title Global Change Biology
DOI 10.1111/gcb.12969
Volume 21
Issue 10
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 3608
Last page 3619
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial San Francisco Estuary