We propose to study the joint effect of density-dependent (internal) and density-independent (external or environmental) control on survival and growth of pre-recruit cod in the Barents Sea. In many terrestrial populations (e.g. voles, lemmings, lynx), the intensity of internal control can change as a function of background external variables a mechanism known as phase dependence. Similar dynamics may also be relevant for the Barents Sea cod, in which recruitment is greatly affected both by density-dependent and climate-linked forcing. We hypothesize that in cod, density-dependent effects on pre-recruitment survival change according to the level of background environmental variables. To address this hypothesis, and its relevance at a population level, we propose the use of a novel statistical formulation (i.e. a semi-parametric regression) applied to long-term data of environmental variables and cod pre-recruitment abundance. Because of the its ecological and economic importance the Barents Sea cod is an in tensely monitored stock, and constitute data-rich system, well suited for this analysis.
This proposal offers a unique opportunity to test, for the first time in a marine system, an innovative ecological hypothesis (i.e. phase dependence). Our results will be readily applicable to future management models that seek to improve recruitment predictions in the face of incumbent climate change. The training aspects of the proposal are intense in the field of population ecology, mathematical biology and marine ecology all relevant disciplines in the area of research that the applicant is pursuing, i.e. the field of ecological fisheries oceanography. The high profile of the Host s scientific and training achievements, coupled with its extensive and well established international scientific network, will provide the applicant with the necessary means to complete the present study and will greatly facilitate his long-term professional advancement in science.
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