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Impact of multiple stressors on juvenile fish in estuaries of the northeast Pacific

Toft, Jason D., Munsch, Stuart H., Cordell, Jeffery R., Siitari, Kiira, Hare, Van C., Holycross, Brett M., DeBruyckere, Lisa A., Greene, Correigh M., Hughes, Brent B.
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.5 pp. 2008-2020
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, Parophrys vetulus, anthropogenic stressors, climate change, coasts, ecosystems, estuaries, fish, habitats, humans, invertebrates, juveniles, land cover, meta-analysis, models, monitoring, pollution, water flow
A key step in identifying global change impacts on species and ecosystems is to quantify effects of multiple stressors. To date, the science of global change has been dominated by regional field studies, experimental manipulation, meta‐analyses, conceptual models, reviews, and studies focusing on a single stressor or species over broad spatial and temporal scales. Here, we provide one of the first studies for coastal systems examining multiple stressor effects across broad scales, focused on the nursery function of 20 estuaries spanning 1,600 km of coastline, 25 years of monitoring, and seven fish and invertebrate species along the northeast Pacific coast. We hypothesized those species most estuarine dependent and negatively impacted by human activities would have lower presence and abundances in estuaries with greater anthropogenic land cover, pollution, and water flow stress. We found significant negative relationships between juveniles of two of seven species (Chinook salmon and English sole) and estuarine stressors. Chinook salmon were less likely to occur and were less abundant in estuaries with greater pollution stress. They were also less abundant in estuaries with greater flow stress, although this relationship was marginally insignificant. English sole were less abundant in estuaries with greater land cover stress. Together, we provide new empirical evidence that effects of stressors on two fish species culminate in detectable trends along the northeast Pacific coast, elevating the need for protection from pollution, land cover, and flow stressors to their habitats. Lack of response among the other five species could be related to differing resistance to specific stressors, type and precision of the stressor metrics, and limitations in catch data across estuaries and habitats. Acquiring improved measurements of impacts to species will guide future management actions, and help predict how estuarine nursery functions can be optimized given anthropogenic stressors and climate change scenarios.