Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Changes in connectivity between North Sea plaice spawning and nursery areas

The plaice population underwent distribution shifts in the past12 and population size is influenced by fluctuations in the recruitment. However, the reasons and main drivers of this remain unclear although there are indications that climatic effects and transport of larval stages are important34567.


Spawning areas of plaice are located in their current position as these provide high connectivity by ocean currents to the coastal nursery areas.  Changes in the hydrography and temperature led to shorter larval development, higher connectivity, the latter was negatively correlated with recruitment strength.

The change in the connectivity of North Sea plaice spawning and nursery areas was investigated using a stage based model coupled to a hydrodynamic model. One hypothesis was that the spawning areas are located nursery areas are located in regions that guarantee a high transport success to the nursery areas which could partly be confirmed. Especially locations in the English Channel, the northern North Sea, the German Bight and off the coast of Belgium, where regularly eggs are observed support tidal flats with juveniles. However, related to warming processes and hydrodynamic changes in the system there were changes in transport success over time which might have supported the increase in plaice abundance in the northern North Sea. Despite high transport rates determined for most of the spawning locations one main spawning ground: the Dogger Bank, only displayed very low transport rates. The reasons for that are not fully understood yet.


Lead Author:

Marc Hufnagl
University of Hamburg (UHAM)
Date of research: October 2012

Related articles:

Co-existence in busy seas: the primary sectors 

Dogger Bank: stakeholder and policy-maker needs 

Ecosystem impacts of non-indigenous species

Environmental change: a metabolic model for fish

Growth model for jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca 

Impact of invasive mussels on carbon flow 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
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