Long-term patterns in 50 years of scyphomedusae catches in the western Dutch Wadden Sea in relation to climate change and eutrophication

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Using a unique 50-year high-resolution time series of daily kom-fyke catches, long-term patterns of scyphomedusae in the western Dutch Wadden Sea were analysed and related to changes in environmental conditions [eutrophication in the 1980s–1990s and recent climate change (increased water temperature)] in the area. Over the years, species composition and general pattern of appearance has remained the same: the first species that occurred in spring was Aurelia aurita, followed by Cyanea lamarckii/C. capillata. Chrysaora hysoscella and Rhizostoma octopus occurred from June to July onwards. All species appeared earlier in recent decades and first appearance and peak occurrence of A. aurita was in part inversely related to previous winter seawater temperature. Last occurrence of C. hysoscella was related to summer seawater temperature and the species is present longer in recent decades. Phenological relationships might have been decoupled since the seasonality of the phytoplankton bloom did not change. All species showed large inter-annual abundance fluctuations, with prolific years followed by sparse years. Peak catches of the coastal species A. aurita occurred in the late 1970s−early 1990s when eutrophication peaked, however, without a significant relationship with total nitrogen input into the area. Unlike for phenology, the patterns of mean abundance of any species did not show a relationship to climate change in the area. This might imply that population regulating mechanisms do not operate during the planktonic phase but during the sessile demersal polyp stages.

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