Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Transactions of the American Fisheries Society





First Page


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The combined effects of conspecific density and climate warming on the vital rates of invasive fish species have not been well studied, but may be important in predicting how successful they will be in the future. We evaluated the effects of temperature and population density on monthly time series of sizes of age-0 Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus in the James, York, and Rappahannock River subestuaries (defined here as tidally influenced bodies of water that feed into the Chesapeake Bay) from 1996 to 2017, using growing degree-days (GDDs, °C day) as a measure of thermal time. Our pre- dictive linear mixed-effects model explained 86% of the variation in the length of age-0 Blue Catfish. In addition, it indi- cated a strong positive effect of temperature on the growth rate of age-0 Blue Catfish, with individual fish biomass during warm years up to 63% higher than during cool years. Growth rate was influenced negatively by the abundance of age-0 and older fish, resulting in at least fourfold differences in the predicted biomass of Blue Catfish by the end of the first year of life depending on conspecific density. We also observed regional differences in the growth rates of Blue Catfish in the three subestuaries we examined; although growth occurred in all subestuaries, growth was highest for the Rappahannock River population even though this river accumulated the fewest GDDs. Rising water temperatures due to global climate change will likely increase the growth rate of age-0 Blue Catfish in the Chesapeake Bay region, potentially intensifying the negative impacts of this invasive species on the ecology of Chesapeake Bay. However, individual populations respond differently to warming temperatures, and thus, potential increases in the growth rate of age-0 Blue Catfish may be par- tially offset by local conditions that may serve to limit growth.