The effect of vertical migration strategy on retention and dispersion in the Irish Sea during spring-summer

Stephen Emsley, Geraint A Tarling, Michael Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


A biophysical model of the Irish Sea was produced to predict net horizontal movement of key taxa including small copepods (Acartia, Pseudocalanus), large copepod species (Calanus finmarchicus and C. helgolandicus), the euphausiid Meganyctiphanes norvegica, and the larval stages of commercially important fish and Nephrops. The model coupled biological information on the vertical distribution and diel vertical migration (DVM) of these taxa with temporally resolved flow fields generated by a baroclinic hydrodynamic model. The DVM of Calanus spp. and Meganyctiphanes was parameterized empirically from data provided by a biophysical campaign carried out in the nearby Clyde Sea. Small copepods and larvae remained within the layers above the thermocline. Model organisms, programmed with particular behavioural patterns, were spaced at regular intervals (1/20 degrees longitude x 1/30 degrees latitude) in the model grid, which extended from 53 to 54.5 degrees N and 4.5 to 6.4 degrees W. The model was run over the months of April, May and June. Model simulations showed that the movement of model organisms followed one of four characteristic patterns: containment along the coast, advection to the north or south, stagnation in the centre of the gyre or circulation around the periphery of the gyre. The latter pattern was apparent even in April, when gyral circulation was not expected because of a lack of stratification in the water column. Thirty-day model runs in April, May and June showed that the number of organisms retained within the model grid varied between 23 and 49%. Those seeded close to the Irish coast had the highest probability of being retained within the model grid at the end of 90 days. DVM increased the probability of retention through improving the chances of organisms becoming entrained within the gyre circulation. This was especially true for Calanus spp., with those performing midnight sinking being the most likely to be retained out of any model organism. Meganyctiphanes showed comparatively lower levels of retention in deep regions, which suggests that they may have to swim against currents during certain phases of their DVM to avoid displacement. Overall, model results supported a number of hypotheses on the origin and fate of various taxa in the Irish Sea, as well as revealing some less expected distribution patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-174
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Fisheries
  • Oceanography
  • GYRE


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