Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 7496
Title: Habitat limitation and spatial variation in Pacific herring egg survival
Author: Andrew Olaf Shelton, T B Francis, G. D. Williams, Blake E. Feist, Kurt Stick, P. S. Levin
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Marine Ecology Progress Series
Volume: 514
Pages: 231-245
DOI: doi: 10.3354/meps10941
Keywords: Puget Sound, forage fish, nearshore, egg loss, herring, habitat limitation, Clupea pallasii, eelgrass,

Nearshore habitats play a vital role in the life cycles of many marine fishes, yet little attention has been paid to the role these habitats play in population dynamics. Nearshore habitats are particularly important for Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), which rely on submerged vegetation in the shallow subtidal for spawning habitat and egg incubation. However, little is known about spatial or temporal variation in eggs success or how spawning habitat may affect herring early life-history. We estimate herring egg loss rates across multiple spawning sites and substrates in five subpopulations of Pacific herring in the Puget Sound (USA), an urbanized, complex estuarine system. We estimated enormous variation in herring egg loss among field sites (range of daily loss rates: 5 to 70%) and in egg loss of eggs reared under common garden conditions (range of cumulative loss: 20 to 100%). Egg loss and mortality rates varied by site but not by spawning vegetation type. Exploratory analyses suggest both wave height and land use patterns may affect hatch success. Using historical survey data, we found that a large proportion of spawning habitat available to Puget Sound herring remains unused each year. Furthermore, we found limited evidence that eggs were deposited disproportionally on particular vegetation types; only the non-indigenous brown algae, Sargassum muticum, was spawned on more frequently than expected by chance. Our results demonstrate that Puget Sound herring are not limited by the amount of available suitable spawning substrate, and that native vegetation is not preferred over other vegetation types for herring spawning. Rather, it appears that other terrestrial or marine variables are more important determinants of herring egg loss and mortality.

Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Characterize relationships between habitat and ecosystem processes, climate variation, and the viability of organisms.
Characterize the interaction of human use and habitat distribution, quantity and quality.
Official Citation:

Shelton, A.O., T.B. Francis, G.D. Williams, B. Feist, K. Stick, P.S. Levin. 2014. Habitat limitation and spatial variation in Pacific herring egg survival. Marine Ecology Progress Series 514:231–245.