Environmental drivers of the anchovy/sardine complex in the Eastern Mediterranean

Isidora Katara, Graham J. Pierce, Janine Illian, Beth E. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The anchovy/sardine complex is an important fishery resource in some of the largest upwelling systems in the world. Synchronous, but out of phase, fluctuations of the two species in distant parts of the oceans have prompted a number of studies dedicated to determining the phenomena, atmospheric and oceanic, responsible for the observed synchronicity and the biological mechanisms behind the population changes of the two species. Anchovy and sardine are of high commercial value for the fishing sector in Greece; this study investigates the impact of large-scale climatic indices on the anchovy/sardine complex in the Greek seas using fishery catches as a proxy for fish productivity. Time series of catches for both species were analysed for relationships with teleconnection indices and local environmental variability. The connection between the teleconnection indices and local weather/oceanic variation was also examined in an effort to describe physical mechanisms that link large-scale atmospheric patterns with anchovy and sardine. The West African Summer Monsoon, East Atlantic Jet and Pacific-North American (PNA) pattern exhibit coherent relationships with the catches of the two species. The first two aforementioned patterns are prominent atmospheric modes of variability during the summer months when sardine is spawning and anchovy juveniles are growing. PNA is related with El Nio Southern Oscillation events. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) appears as a significant link between atmospheric and biological variability either because higher temperatures seem to be favouring sardine growth or because lower temperatures, characteristic of productivity-enhancing oceanic features, exert a positive influence on both species. However at a local scale, other parameters such as wind and mesoscale circulation describe air-sea variability affecting the anchovy/sardine complex. These relationships are non-linear and in agreement with results of previous studies stressing the importance of optimal environmental windows. The results also show differences in the response of the two species to environmental forcing and possible interactions between the two species. The nature of these phenomena, e.g., if the species interactions are direct through competition or indirect through the food web, remains to be examined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-65
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Anchovy/sardine complex
  • Environmental effects
  • Teleconnections
  • anchovy engraulis-encrasicolus
  • dynamic factor-analysis
  • Northern Aegean Sea
  • Multivariate time-series
  • fish recruitment success
  • Asian Summer monsoon
  • Small pelagic fish
  • Long-term changes
  • Regime-shifts
  • Common Trends


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