Long-term Bering Sea environmental variability revealed by a centennial-length biochronology of Pacific ocean perch Sebastes alutus

Peter Van Der Sleen, Matthew P. Dzaugis, Christopher Gentry, Wayne P. Hall, Vicki Hamilton, Thomas E. Helser, Mary E. Matta, Christopher A. Underwood, Rachel Zuercher, Bryan A. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The productivity and functioning of Bering Sea marine ecosystems are tightly coupled to decadal-scale environmental variability, as exemplified by the profound changes in community composition that followed the 1976-1977 shift from a cool to a warm climate regime. Longer-term ecosystem dynamics, including the extent to which this regime shift was exceptional in the context of the past century, remain poorly described due to a lack of multi-decadal biological time series. To explore the impact of decadal regime shifts on higher trophic levels, we applied dendrochronology (tree-ring science) techniques to the otolith growth-increment widths of Pacific ocean perch Sebastes alutus (POP) collected from the continental slope of the eastern Bering Sea. After crossdating, 2 chronology development techniques were applied: (1) a regional curve standardization (RCS) approach designed to retain as much low-frequency variability as possible, and (2) an individual-detrending approach that maximized interannual synchrony among samples. Both chronologies spanned the years 1919-2006 and were significantly (p < 0.001) and positively correlated with sea surface temperature (March-December). The RCS chronology showed a transition from relatively slow to fast growth after 1976-1977. In both chronologies, the highest observed growth values immediately followed the regime shift, suggesting that this event had a critical and lasting impact on growth of POP. This growth pulse was, however, not shared by a previously published yellowfin sole Limanda aspera chronology (1969-2006) from the eastern Bering Sea shelf, indicating species- or site-specific responses. Ultimately, these chronologies provide a long-term perspective and underscore the susceptibility of fish growth to extreme low-frequency events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalClimate Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bering Sea
  • Chronology
  • Climate
  • Growth increment
  • Otolith
  • Pacific ocean perch
  • Sebastes alutus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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