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Biophysical modeling of survival and dispersal of Central and Eastern Baltic Sea flounder (Platichthys flesus) larvae

The period of larval drift into a suitable nursery area is considered to be of great significance for recruitment variability in flatfish. Here, a hydrodynamic model coupled with a Lagrangian particle tracking technique was utilized to study the drift from the first feeding larval stage until time of settlement of Central and Eastern Baltic flounder (Platichthys flesus), originating from spawning in the Baltic Sea deep basins, the Arkona- and Bornholm basin (central Baltic Sea), and the Gdansk deep and Gotland basin (eastern Baltic Sea). We examined the spatiotemporal dynamics of the probability to settle in preferred nursery habitat by detailed drift model simulations. The study suggests that the majority of larvae (89% and 74% for Central- and Eastern Baltic flounder, respectively) drift towards coastal areas and settle at metamorphosis ≤20 km from a sandy habitat enabling further migration to a preferred nursery area, i.e. larval drift seems not to be a major bottleneck in recruitment of flounder spawning in the Baltic Sea deep basins. The drift model results suggest that Central Baltic flounder utilize nursery areas mainly in the central and western Baltic, and in the Kattegat, whereas Eastern Baltic flounder mainly utilize the coast in the central and eastern Baltic. Thus, the two stock components seem to use different nursery areas following settlement. Further, in accordance with the “nursery size hypothesis”, the model demonstrates that larvae from the Bornholm basin, utilizing areas with extensive distribution of preferred nursery habitat, display the highest relative successful transport to nursery grounds until settling (72% of successfully settled larvae), suggesting that spawning in the Bornholm Basin is of great importance for stock recruitment of deep basin spawning Baltic flounder.



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