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Ecosystem changes and the effects on capelin (Mallotus villosus), a major forage species

Carscadden, J E, Frank, K T, Leggett, W C
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2001 v.58 no.1 pp. 73-85
Mallotus villosus, demersal fish, ecosystems, food availability, forage fish, phytoplankton, predation, predators, zooplankton, Northwest Atlantic
Capelin (Mallotus villosus), an important forage and commercial fish in the Northwest Atlantic, has exhibited dramatic changes in its biology during the 1990s, coincident with extreme oceanographic conditions and the collapse of major groundfish stocks. Commercial exploitation has not been a serious factor influencing the population biology of capelin in the area. The overall consumption of capelin has declined as predator stock abundances have changed. Data on plankton are sparse, but there appears to have been a decline in zooplankton abundance during the 1990s, and at the same time, a phytoplankton index increased. The impact of the changes in the physical environment has been the subject of previous studies and these are reviewed. The relative impacts of four factors, commercial exploitation, predation, food availability, and the physical environment, on the changes in capelin biology are discussed in the context of capelin as a single species and in the context of the ecosystem. The overall patterns suggest the existence of a "trophic cascade" within the distributional range of capelin in the Northwest Atlantic during the 1990s primarily driven by declines in major finfish predators.