Contrasting tropical estuarine ecosystem functioning and stability: A comparative study

A comparative study of the Sine-saloum (Senegal) and Gambia (The Gambia) estuaries was performed based on trophic model outputs that describe the system structure and functioning. These trophic models were constructed such as to differentiate main energetic flows in the systems and express how climate change may have impacted ecosystem resilience to change. Estuarine fish assemblages are highly resilient despite exposure to vast hydrodynamic variations and stress. Coupled with strong anthropogenic-driven stresses such as fisheries and climate change, ecosystems may undergo severe regime shifts that may weaken their resilience and stability. Taxonomically related and morphologically similar species do not necessarily play similar ecological roles in these two ecosystems. Biomass and production in the Sine-saloum are concentrated at trophic levels (TLs) 2 and 3, while for the Gambia, both are concentrated at TL3. Higher TL biomasses in Gambia compared to Sine-Saloum may be explained by the latter ecosystem being characterized by inverse hypersalinity. Higher TL of production in Sine-Saloum is due to higher exploitations compared to Gambia where fishing activities are still less developed. High production and consumption rates of some groups in both ecosystems indicate high system productivity. Elevated productivity may be due to higher abundance of juvenile fishes in most groups that utilize the latter as refuge and/or nursery zones. Both ecosystems are phytoplankton-driven. Differences in group trophic and ecological roles are mainly due to adaptive responses of these species to seasonal and long-term climate and anthropogenic stressors. System indicators suggest different levels of ecosystem resilience and stability as a function of biodiversity. Relevance of other observations on ecosystem functioning and indicators in relation to perturbation is discussed.


complex adaptative systems, climate change, food web models, regime shifts, ecosystem resilience, trophic ecology

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Villanueva Ching-Maria (2015). Contrasting tropical estuarine ecosystem functioning and stability: A comparative study. Estuarine Coastal And Shelf Science. 155. 89-103.,

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