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Trophic flows, ecosystem structure and fishing impacts in the South Catalan Sea, Northwestern Mediterranean

AuthorsColl, Marta CSIC ORCID ; Palomera, Isabel CSIC ORCID ; Tudela, Sergi; Sardà, Francisco CSIC ORCID
Ecological modelling
Trophic web
Network analysis
Fishing impact
Environmental forcing
Ebro Delta
Issue Date11-Jan-2006
CitationJournal of Marine Systems 59(1-2): 63-96 (2006)
AbstractAn exploited ecosystem from the continental shelf and upper slope of the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea was described by means of an Ecopath mass-balance model with the aim of characterising its functioning and structure and describing the ecosystem impacts of fishing. This application included some complexities added to the general modelling methodology due to the high biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea and the multispecific nature of the fishery, and to the difficulties of working with fishing data which are usually irregularly or imprecisely collected. The model comprised 40 functional groups including primary producers, the main species of benthic, demersal and pelagic invertebrates, fishes and non-fish vertebrates and three detritus groups. In addition, trawling, purse seine, longline and troll bait fishing fleets were included.
Results showed that the functional groups were organized into four trophic levels with the highest levels corresponding to anglerfish, dolphins, large pelagic fishes and adult hake. The system was dominated by the pelagic fraction, where sardine and anchovy prevailed in terms of fish biomasses and catches. Detritus and detritivorous groups also played key roles in the ecosystem and important coupled pelagic-demersal interactions were described. Considering Odum's theory of ecosystem development, the ecosystem was placed on an intermediate-low developmental stage due, at least partially, to the impact of fishing activity. This highlighted the high intensity of fishing in the ecosystem, in accordance with the general assessment of western Mediterranean marine resources, and fishing fleets were ranked as top predators of the system. The low trophic level of the catch was in line with the long history of exploitation in the area. However, the steady decline of pelagic landings between 1994 and 2003, coupled with a decrease of the pelagic biomass within the system, underlined the low resistance of the system in front of perturbations. This decline was reproduced under Ecosim dynamic simulations combining different scenarios of moderate increase of fishing effort and an environmental forcing affecting the availability of preys to small and medium-sized pelagic fishes under wasp-waist flow control
Description34 pages, 12 figures, 8 tables, 1 appendix
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