Reconstructing historical marine ecosystems using food web models: Northern British Columbia from Pre-European contact to present
ABSTRACT Mass-balance trophic models (Ecopath with Ecosim) are developed for the marine ecosystem of northern British Columbia (BC) for the historical periods 1750, 1900, 1950 and 2000 AD. Time series data are compiled for catch, fishing mortality and biomass using fisheries statistics and literature values. Using the assembled dataset, dynamics of the 1950-based simulations are fitted to agree with observations over 50 years to 2000 through the manipulation of trophic flow parameters and the addition of climate factors: a primary production anomaly and herring recruitment anomaly. The predicted climate anomalies reflect documented environmental series, most strongly sea surface temperature and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index. The best-fit predator–prey interaction parameters indicate mixed trophic control of the ecosystem. Trophic flow parameters from the fitted 1950 model are transferred to the other historical periods assuming stationarity in density-dependent foraging tactics. The 1900 model exhibited an improved fit to data using this approach, which suggests that the pattern of trophic control may have remained constant over much of the last century. The 1950 model is driven forward 50 years using climate and historical fishing drivers. The resulting ecosystem is compared to the 2000 model, and the dynamics of these models are compared in a predictive forecast to 2050. The models suggest similar restoration trajectories after a hypothetical release from fishing.
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ABSTRACT: One of the greatest obstacles to moving ecosystem-based management (EBM) from concept to practice is the lack of a systematic approach to defining ecosystem-level decision criteria, or reference points that trigger management action. To assist resource managers and policymakers in developing EBM decision criteria, we introduce a quantitative, transferable method for identifying utility thresholds. A utility threshold is the level of human-induced pressure (e.g., pollution) at which small changes produce substantial improvements toward the EBM goal of protecting an ecosystem's structural (e.g., diversity) and functional (e.g., resilience) attributes. The analytical approach is based on the detection of nonlinearities in relationships between ecosystem attributes and pressures. We illustrate the method with a hypothetical case study of (1) fishing and (2) nearshore habitat pressure using an empirically-validated marine ecosystem model for British Columbia, Canada, and derive numerical threshold values in terms of the density of two empirically-tractable indicator groups, sablefish and jellyfish. We also describe how to incorporate uncertainty into the estimation of utility thresholds and highlight their value in the context of understanding EBM trade-offs. For any policy scenario, an understanding of utility thresholds provides insight into the amount and type of management intervention required to make significant progress toward improved ecosystem structure and function. The approach outlined in this paper can be applied in the context of single or multiple human-induced pressures, to any marine, freshwater, or terrestrial ecosystem, and should facilitate more effective management.PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(1):e8907. · 4.09 Impact Factor