Local reflects global: Life stage-dependent changes in the phenology of coastal habitat use by North Sea herring

Mark Rademaker*, Myron A. Peck, Anieke van Leeuwen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Climate warming is affecting the suitability and utilization of coastal habitats by marine fishes around the world. Phenological changes are an important indicator of population responses to climate-induced changes but remain difficult to detect in marine fish populations. The design of large-scale monitoring surveys does not allow fine-grained temporal inference of population responses, while the responses of ecologically and economically important species groups such as small pelagic fish are particularly sensitive to temporal resolution. Here, we use the longest, highest resolution time series of species composition and abundance of marine fishes in northern Europe to detect possible phenological shifts in the small pelagic North Sea herring. We detect a clear forward temporal shift in the phenology of nearshore habitat use by small juvenile North Sea herring. This forward shift might be linked to changes in water temperatures in the North Sea. We next assessed the robustness of the effects we found with respect to monitoring design. We find that reducing the temporal resolution of our data to reflect the resolution typical of larger surveys makes it difficult to detect phenological shifts and drastically reduces the effect sizes of environmental covariates such as seawater temperature. Our study therefore shows how local, long-term, high-resolution time series of fish catches are essential to understand the general phenological responses of marine fishes to climate warming and to define ecological indicators of system-level changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17285
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • climate change
  • fisheries
  • population ecology
  • small pelagics


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