El Niño periods increase growth of juvenile white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) in the Southern California Bight

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Journal Article

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Studies of the impact of El Niño periods on marine species have usually focused on negative, highly visible eVects, e.g., decreasing growth rates or increasing mortality due to a decline in primary productivity in typically nutrient rich upwelling zones; but positive effects related to elevated water temperature are also known. This study examined how the growth rate of juvenile white seabass, Atractoscion nobilis, responded to changes in ocean temperature in an El Niño period (1997–1998) in the northern portion of the Southern California Bight, USA. Growth rates of juvenile white seabass during their first 4 years of life were estimated as the slopes of linear relationships between body mass and age (from otoliths) of 800 fish collected at 11 stations throughout the bight. Growth rates differed significantly among cohorts hatched in 1996–2001. Specifically, white seabass that hatched in 1996 and 1997 grew significantly faster than those that hatched in 1998, 1999, and 2001. These differences in growth rates of cohorts appeared to be driven by variation in sea-surface temperature (SST). Growth rates averaged over the first three or 4 years of life were signiWcantly positively corre- lated to average daily SST during the first 1–4 years of life. Increased growth of juvenile white seabass during the warm El Niño period likely provided a number of benefits to this warm-temperate species. This study demonstrated that some species will benefit from these warm-water periods despite reduced system-wide primary production.