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Density-dependent regulation of year-class strength in age-0 juvenile striped bass (Morone saxatilis).
Martino, EJ; Houde, ED
Abundance of age-0 striped bass (Morone saxatilis) exhibits 50-fold variability in Chesapeake Bay. Processes that act to reduce and thus regulate this variability were investigated. The potential for density-dependent regulation of growth and mortality in the early juvenile stage and its causes were investigated. Data from multiple seine and trawl surveys in upper Chesapeake Bay and tributaries were analyzed to construct growth and mortality indices having a high degree of spatial and temporal resolution. Age-0 mean lengths in September were inversely related to density, ranging from 67.8 mm in 1994, when mean density was 0.036.m-2, to 104.5 mm in 1992, when mean density was 0.003.m-2. Except for the Potomac River, evidence for density-dependent growth was consistent across subpopulations. Bioenergetics modeling indicated that prey consumption was limiting except in low-abundance years. Mortality increased with respect to abundance and also was density-dependent. The significant interaction between age-0 juvenile length in September and subsequent winter temperature on mortality indicated that density-dependent growth leads to size-selective overwinter mortality. A statistical model including age-0 abundances, age-0 lengths, and winter temperature explained a substantial fraction of variability and the mechanisms for regulation of striped bass recruitment.
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