Will Climate Change Lead to More Sole in the North Sea?

Sole larva (copyright: Hans Hillewaert)
15/12/2017
Will Climate Change Lead to More Sole in the North Sea?
post by
Kelle Moreau

The common sole (Solea solea) is a flatfish with a high economical value (e.g. representing up to 40% of the annual profit of the Belgian fishery in recent years), that is therefore subject to a strong fishing pressure. In order to sustainably manage its stocks, it is necessary to not only consider fishing pressure, but also to estimate the impact of climate change on the abundance and distribution of sole. A new study provides the first insights: more larvae will arrive in the North Sea nurseries, but with strong local differences.

Sole As a Model

Sole eggs and larvae passively drift with marine currents, until the larvae settle on their nursery grounds. Researchers from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and of the University of Leuven have studied the effect of climate change on the larval dispersal of sole, with focus on the North Sea. They developed a model (LARVAE&CO), applied to the eastern English Channel and the North Sea, which allows simulating sole larval distribution under different scenarios of changing water temperature, wind direction and wind intensity.

Climate Effects

“The results show that warming of the water with 2°C by 2040 would lead to an earlier spawning period (42 days on average), which in turn, would reduce by 9% the mean temperature experienced by the larvae, in comparison to the current situation” says Geneviève Lacroix, leading author of the study. “This would increase the average larval stage duration (+22%) and the distance travelled by the larvae (+70%) on marine currents.” The study further illustrates that the number of larvae settling at the nursery grounds would increase (+9%) at the North Sea scale, but with strong differences between the nursery grounds. For the Belgian nurseries, a drop in larval settlement of 58% is expected, whereas 36% more sole larvae are computed to settle in the Dutch nurseries.

This study has been published in the international journal Global Change Biology. The results, which concern only larvae, partially answer questions related to the impact of climate change on the future of sole fisheries in different locations in the North Sea. In a next step, it would be necessary to also consider the impact on sole juveniles and adults, and also on other species interacting with sole (prey and predators).

Categories: Scientific News
Subscribe to Royal belgian Institute for natural Sciences News
Go to top