The mosaic of habitats of the Seine estuary: Insights from food-web modelling and network analysis

Ecological network analysis was applied in the Seine estuary ecosystem, northern France, integrating ecological data from the years 1996 to 2002. The Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) approach was used to model the trophic flows in 6 spatial compartments leading to 6 distinct EwE models: the navigation channel and the two channel flanks in the estuary proper, and 3 marine habitats in the eastern Seine Bay. Each model included 12 consumer groups, 2 primary producers, and one detritus group. Ecological network analysis was performed, including a set of indices, keystoneness, and trophic spectrum analysis to describe the contribution of the 6 habitats to the Seine estuary ecosystem functioning. Results showed that the two habitats with a functioning most related to a stressed state were the northern and central navigation channels, where building works and constant maritime traffic are considered major anthropogenic stressors. The strong top-down control highlighted in the other 4 habitats was not present in the central channel, showing instead (i) a change in keystone roles in the ecosystem towards sediment-based, lower trophic levels, and (ii) a higher system omnivory. The southern channel evidenced the highest system activity (total system throughput), the higher trophic specialisation (low system omnivory), and the lowest indication of stress (low cycling and relative redundancy). Marine habitats showed higher fish biomass proportions and higher transfer efficiencies per trophic levels than the estuarine habitats, with a transition area between the two that presented intermediate ecosystem structure. The modelling of separate habitats permitted disclosing each one's response to the different pressures, based on their a priori knowledge. Network indices, although non-monotonously, responded to these differences and seem a promising operational tool to define the ecological status of transitional water ecosystems.


Trophic network, Estuary, Ecological network analysis, Ecopath with Ecosim, Food web, Ecosystem health indicators

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Tecchio Samuele, Rius Antonio, Dauvin Jean-Claude, Lobry Jeremy, Lassalle Geraldine, Morin Jocelyne, Bacq Nicolas, Cachera Marie, Chaalali Aurelie, Villanueva Ching-Maria, Niquil Nathalie (2015). The mosaic of habitats of the Seine estuary: Insights from food-web modelling and network analysis. Ecological Modelling. 312. 91-101.,

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