Journal Article

Comparison of the biophysical and trophic characteristics of the Bering and Barents Seas

George L. Hunt and Bernard A. Megrey

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 62, issue 7, pages 1245-1255
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Comparison of the biophysical and trophic characteristics of the Bering and Barents Seas

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The eastern Bering Sea and the Barents Sea share a number of common biophysical characteristics. For example, both are seasonally ice-covered, high-latitude, shelf seas, dependent on advection for heat and for replenishment of nutrients on their shelves, and with ecosystems dominated by a single species of gadoid fish. At the same time, they differ in important respects. In the Barents Sea, advection of Atlantic Water is important for zooplankton vital to the Barents Sea productivity. Advection of zooplankton is not as important for the ecosystems of the southeastern Bering Sea, where high levels of diatom production can support production of small, neritic zooplankton. In the Barents Sea, cod are the dominant gadoid, and juvenile and older fish depend on capelin and other forage fish to repackage the energy available in copepods. In contrast, the dominant fish in the eastern Bering Sea is the walleye pollock, juveniles and adults of which consume zooplankton directly. The southeastern Bering Sea supports considerably larger fish stocks than the Barents. In part, this may reflect the greater depth of much of the Barents Sea compared with the shallow shelf of the southeastern Bering. However, walleye pollock is estimated to occupy a trophic level of 3.3 as compared to 4.3 for Barents Sea cod. This difference alone could have a major impact on the abilities of these seas to support a large biomass of gadoids. In both seas, climate-forced variability in advection and sea-ice cover can potentially have major effects on the productivity of these Subarctic seas. In the Bering Sea, the size and location of pools of cold bottom waters on the shelf may influence the likelihood of predation of juvenile pollock.

Keywords: Barents Sea; Bering Sea; capelin; cod; ecosystem productivity; herring; walleye pollock

Journal Article.  6398 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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