Impacts of the match-mismatch hypothesis across three trophic levels—a case study in the North Sea

A Sofia A Ferreira*, Anna B Neuheimer, Joël M Durant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Sustainable fishery practices require accurate predictions of fish recruitment - the abundance of a new year class entering a fishery. A key driver of recruitment is the impact predator-prey dynamics experienced during early life stages has on their survival at later stages, as in the Match-Mismatch Hypothesis (MMH). MMH states that predator survival depends on the match (or mismatch) between the timing of predator feeding and that of prey availability. This study aims to understand how predator-prey spatio-temporal overlap explains the variation in a pelagic fish population. We explore the predator-prey overlap between each pair of three trophic levels in the North Sea (NS) from 1982-2017: herring (Clupea harengus) larvae, zooplankton (Temora longicornis, Oithona sp.,Pseudocalanus spp., and Acartia spp.), and a phytoplankton index. We found that MMH explained 23% of recruitment (1-year-old) of NS autumn-spawning (NSAS) herring, performed similarly (21-26%) when using different trophic levels, and that there was a spatial pattern in both the overlap and the negative relationship between the overlap and recruitment, similar to the variation of habitat use of NS herring. Our results characterize how the MMH, including spatial variability, plays in controlling herring recruitment, while also considering unexplained variation for future study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Pages (from-to)308-316
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • fish recruitment
  • phenology
  • plankton dynamics
  • seasonal cycles


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