ICES Annual Science Conference 2015

Mapping migrations onto dynamic seascapes: "The most essential things are invisible to the eye"

Dr. David Secor

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, USA

​​The digital age has ushered in countless discoveries on the previously hidden lives of marine fishes. What have we learned? Have organizing principles emerged from this deluge of discovery? Can we harness new found diversity to improve stewardship of fisheries and marine ecosystems? 

From the millions of telemetered paths, turns, dives, stops, and spins comes movement ecology – a focus on what motivates the individual. Compelling and elegant rules such as Lèvy flights and area restricted search behaviors give rise to models that forecast shorter term aggregate behaviors. But across seasons and years, collective agencies (schooling, homing, straying, irruptions, partial migration) take hold leading to non-linear, multi-modal, and transient population outcomes.

Migration ecology embraces such collective emergent behaviors, with emphasis on (1) the alignment of mating systems with larval dispersal, (2) the migration of cohorts through size-structured marine food webs, and (3) the synergy of natal homing, straying, and partial migration in populations that are both open and closed to immigration. Through complex life cycles, populations build contingents for contingencies, a property that managers could harness to build stability and resilience in marine fisheries against future non-stationary and novel ecosystem states. 

Contingent structures and collective agencies will remain hidden from view so accounting for these behaviors in stock assessments promises to be expensive and uncertain. Here simulation modelling provides the ability to explore constructs of life cycle diversity against their likely influences on stock performance. 

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Mapping migrations onto dynamic seascapes: "The most essential things are invisible to the eye"

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