Towards end-to-end models for investigating the effects of climate and fishing in marine ecosystems

M Travers, Y Shin, S Jennings, P Cury

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186 Citations (Scopus)


End-to-end models that represent ecosystem components from primary producers to top predators, linked through trophic interactions and affected by the abiotic environment, are expected to provide valuable tools for assessing the effects of climate change and fishing on ecosystem dynamics. Here, we review the main process-based approaches used for marine ecosystem modelling, focusing on the extent of the food web modelled, the forcing factors considered, the trophic processes represented, as well as the potential use and further development of the models. We consider models of a subset of the food web, models which represent the first attempts to couple low and high trophic levels, integrated models of the whole ecosystem, and size spectrum models. Comparisons within and among these groups of models highlight the preferential use of functional groups at low trophic levels and species at higher trophic levels and the different ways in which the models account for abiotic processes. The model comparisons also highlight the importance of choosing an appropriate spatial dimension for representing organism dynamics. Many of the reviewed models could be extended by adding components and by ensuring that the full life cycles of species components are represented, but end-to-end models should provide full coverage of ecosystem components, the integration of physical and biological processes at different scales and two-way interactions between ecosystem components. We suggest that this is best achieved by coupling models, but there are very few existing cases where the coupling supports true two-way interaction. The advantages of coupling models are that the extent of discretization and representation can be targeted to the part of the food web being considered, making their development time- and cost-effective. Processes such as predation can be coupled to allow the propagation of forcing factors effects up and down the food web. However, there needs to be a stronger focus on enabling two-way interaction, carefully selecting the key functional groups and species, reconciling different time and space scales and the methods of converting between energy, nutrients and mass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-770
Number of pages20
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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