The Humboldt Current LME is considered a Class I, highly productive (>300 gC/m2-yr), ecosystem. It is the most productive marine ecosystem in the world, as well as the largest upwelling system. The Humboldt’s high rates of primary and secondary productivity support the world’s largest fisheries. Approximately 18-20% of the world’s fish catch comes from the Humboldt Current LME. The species are mostly pelagic: sardines, anchovies and jack mackerel. The LME’s high productivity supports other important fishery resources as well as marine mammals. The cold, nutrient-rich water brought to the surface by upwelling drives the system’s extraordinary productivity.
Periodically, the upwelling that drives the system’s productivity is disrupted by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event. When this occurs, fish abundance and distribution are significantly affected, often leading to stock crashes and cascading social and economic impacts. These events have led to sequential changes, where sardines and anchovies have replaced each other periodically as the dominant species in the ecosystem. These species changes can have negative consequences for the fishing industry and the economies of the countries that fish the system.
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