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Sea surface temperature dictates movement and habitat connectivity of Atlantic cod in a coastal fjord system

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  • Thomas A. B. Staveley
  • David M. P. Jacoby
  • Diana Perry
  • Felix Meijs
  • Ingvar Lagenfelt
  • Mikael Cremle
  • Martin Gullström
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecology and Evolution
Issue number16
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)9076-9086
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/07/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


While movements of organisms have been studied across a myriad of environments, information is often lacking regarding spatio-seasonal patterning in complex temperate coastal systems. Highly mobile fish form an integral part of marine food webs providing linkages within and among habitats, between patches of habitats, and at different life stages. We investigated how movement, activity, and connectivity patterns of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) are influenced by dynamic environmental conditions. Movement patterns of 39 juvenile and subadult Atlantic cod were assessed in two coastal sites in the Swedish Skagerrak for 5 months. We used passive acoustic telemetry and network analysis to assess seasonal and spatial movement patterns of cod and their relationships to different environmental factors, using statistical correlations, analysis of recurrent spatial motifs, and generalized linear mixed models. Temperature, in combination with physical barriers, precludes significant connectivity (complex motifs) within the system. Sea surface temperature had a strong influence on connectivity (node strength, degree, and motif frequency), where changes from warmer summer waters to colder winter waters significantly reduced movement activity of fish. As the seasons changed, movement of fish gradually decreased from large-scale (km) linkages in the summer to more localized movement patterns in the winter (limited to 100s m). Certain localized areas, however, were identified as important for connectivity throughout the whole study period, likely due to these multiple-habitat areas fulfilling functions required for foraging and shelter. This study provides new knowledge regarding inshore movement dynamics of juvenile and subadult Atlantic cod that use complex, coastal fjord systems. The findings show that connectivity, seasonal patterns in particular, should be carefully considered when selecting conservation areas to promote marine stewardship.