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.

Shifts in the spring herring larvae and related ecosystem over the past 50 years

Because of the high management relevance, commercial fish related aspects have often been central in marine ecosystem investigations. The iterative shiftogram method was applied to detect occurrence, type and timing of shifts in the single and multivariate time series linked to the spring spawning herring larvae in the Gulf of Riga. Altogether nineteen larval herring and related environmental variables (including abiotic and biotic) were utilised during the period of 1957–2010, aggregated into three major categories: hydroclimate, phenology and biota. The objective of present study was to identify pressures that affect changes in species phenology and abundance as well as to see whether the relative importance of different drivers has been modified over the long term time scales.


The Gulf of Riga has faced two distinct ecosystem states, separated by a smooth long-lasting transition period, during the past 50 years.

Based on all nineteen time series (on abiotic, biotic and phenology parameters), two distinct ecosystem states (1957–1983 and 1992–2010) were identified. These were separated by a smooth transition period lasting almost ten years. The observed shift in the ecosystem was mainly related to changes in local hydroclimate while biotic parameters or phenology changes played only minor role.

Lead Author:

Timo Arula
Estonian Marine Institute (EMI-UT)
Date of research: February 2014

Related articles:

Variations of mortality of exploited stocks 

Activities influencing fisher location choice 

Analysis of changes in species distributions 

Changes in the upper trophic level: impact on fish

Climate change: flatfish and shrimp fisheries 

Could MPAs mitigate the effects of fishing? 

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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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