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Comparison of ecosystem modelling and isotopic approach as ecological tools to investigate food webs in the NW Mediterranean Sea

AuthorsNavarro, Joan ; Coll, Marta ; Louzao, Maite; Palomera, Isabel ; Delgado Huertas, Antonio ; Forero, Manuela G.
KeywordsEcopath model
Ecosystem model
Marine food-webs
Marine predators
Trophic position
Stable isotopes
Issue DateMay-2011
CitationJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 401(1-2): 97-104 (2011)
AbstractUnderstanding how marine ecosystems are structured and how they function is a scientific challenge. Nowadays, to learn about ecosystem trophic dynamics ecologists use two complementary methodological approximations, mass-balance ecosystem models and isotopic tools. However, despite the wide applications of these methodologies, the comparison and combination of both are still scarce. The aim of this study was to examine the trophic dynamics of representative species of the South Catalan marine ecosystem (North-western Mediterranean) using the Ecopath ecosystem modelling tool and the stable isotope approach. By using the two methodologies we depicted the trophic position (trophic level and δ15N values) and trophic width (omnivory index and total isotopic area) of several species of fish, cephalopods, cetaceans, seabirds and one sea turtle. Our results show a clear correlation between the trophic levels estimated by the Ecopath model and the δ15N values, which validate the trophic position of several species in the study area and indicate that both methodologies are useful to determine the trophic position of marine species in Mediterranean marine food webs. In contrast, the two estimators of trophic width (the omnivore index and the total isotopic area) were not strongly related, since the relationship between modelling and stable isotope results was evident only for some species. Further comparisons of trophic width calculated in other marine food webs may provide a better understanding of our results and validate the accuracy of both methodological approaches to calculate trophic width
Description8 pages, 4 figures, 1 table
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2011.02.040
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