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Food web structure and vulnerability of a deep-sea ecosystem in the NW Mediterranean Sea

AuthorsTecchio, Samuele CSIC ORCID; Coll, Marta CSIC ORCID ; Christensen, Villy; Company, Joan B. CSIC ORCID ; Ramírez-Llodra, Eva CSIC ORCID; Sardà, Francisco CSIC ORCID
KeywordsEcopath with Ecosim
NW Mediterranean
Trawl fishery
Food web
Deep sea
Issue DateMay-2013
PublisherPergamon Press
CitationDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 75: 1-15 (2013)
AbstractThere is increasing fishing pressure on the continental margins of the oceans, and this raises concerns about the vulnerability of the ecosystems thriving there. The current knowledge of the biology of deep-water fish species identifies potential reduced resilience to anthropogenic disturbance. However, there are extreme difficulties in sampling the deep sea, resulting in poorly resolved and indirectly obtained food-web relationships. Here, we modelled the flows and biomasses of a Mediterranean deep-sea ecosystem, the Catalan Sea continental slope at depths of 1000–1400 m. This is the first model of a deep-water ecosystem in the Mediterranean Sea. The objectives were to (a) quantitatively describe the food web structure of the ecosystem, (b) examine the role of key species in the ecosystem, and (c) explore the vulnerability of this deep-sea ecosystem to potential future fishing exploitation. We used the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modelling approach and software to model the ecosystem. The trophic model included 18 consumers, a marine snow group, and a sediment detritus group. Trophic network analysis identified low levels of consumer biomass cycling and low system omnivory index when compared with expected values of marine ecosystems, and higher cycling and omnivory when compared with available EwE models of shallower areas of the Mediterranean Sea. The majority of flows in the ecosystem were concentrated at the trophic level of first-order consumers (TL 2). Benthic invertebrates and demersal sharks were identified to have key ecological roles in the ecosystem. We used the dynamic temporal model Ecosim to simulate expansion of the red-shrimp benthic trawl fishery that currently operates at shallower depths, down to 800 m depth. The simulations showed reductions in fish biomass and that the state of the deep continental slope ecosystem in the western Mediterranean seems to be the result of a long-term succession process, which has reached ecological stability, and is particularly vulnerable to human impact and, specifically, to fisheries exploitation. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Description15 pages, 6 figures, 3 tables, 1 appendix
Publisher version (URL)
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.01.003
issn: 0967-0637
e-issn: 1879-0119
Appears in Collections:(ICM) Artículos

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