Making ecological indicators management ready: Assessing the specificity, sensitivity, and threshold response of ecological indicators

Type Article
Date 2019-10
Language English
Author(s) Fu Caihong1, Xu Yi1, Bundy Alida2, Grüss Arnaud3, Coll Marta4, Heymans Johanna J.5, 6, Fulton Elizabeth A.7, 8, Shannon Lynne9, Halouani GhassenORCID10, Velez Laure11, Akoğlu Ekin12, 13, Lynam Christopher P.14, Shin Yunne-Jai11
Affiliation(s) 1 : Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 6N7, Canada
2 : Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, PO Box 1006, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4A2, Canada
3 : School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 355020, Seattle, WA 98105-5020, USA
4 : Institute of Marine Science (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta, n° 37-49. 08003 & Ecopath International Initiative Research Association, Barcelona, Spain
5 : Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban, Argyll PA371QA, UK
6 : European Marine Board, Wandelaarkaai 7, Oostende 8400, Belgium
7 : CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
8 : Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
9 : Department of Biological Sciences, and Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa
10 : Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Dublin Road, Galway, Ireland
11 : Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UMR MARBEC (IRD, University Montpellier, Ifremer, CNRS), Montpellier, France
12 : Middle East Technical University, Institute of Marine Sciences, 33731 Erdemli, Turkey
13 : Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale, Borgo Grotta Gigante 42/C, 34010 Sgonico, TS, Italy
14 : Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Lowestoft Laboratory, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, UK
Source Ecological Indicators (1470-160X) (Elsevier BV), 2019-10 , Vol. 105 , P. 16-28
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.05.055
WOS© Times Cited 33
Keyword(s) Ecological modelling, Fishing pressure, Gradient forest method, Indictor performance, Marine ecosystem, Primary productivity

Moving toward ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) necessitates a suite of ecological indicators that are responsive to fishing pressure, capable of tracking changes in the state of marine ecosystems, and related to management objectives. In this study, we employed the gradient forest method to assess the performance of 14 key ecological indicators in terms of specificity, sensitivity and the detection of thresholds for EBFM across ten marine ecosystems using four modelling frameworks (Ecopath with Ecosim, OSMOSE, Atlantis, and a multi-species size-spectrum model). Across seven of the ten ecosystems, high specificity to fishing pressure was found for most of the 14 indicators. The indicators biomass to fisheries catch ratio (B/C), mean lifespan and trophic level of fish community were found to have wide utility for evaluating fishing impacts. The biomass indicators, which have been identified as Essential Ocean Variables by the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), had lower performance for evaluating fishing impacts, yet they were most sensitive to changes in primary productivity. The indicator B/C was most sensitive to low levels of fishing pressure with a generally consistent threshold response around 0.4*FMSY (fishing mortality rate at maximum sustainable yield) across nine of the ten ecosystems. Over 50% of the 14 indicators had threshold responses at, or below ∼0.6* FMSY for most ecosystems, indicating that these ecosystems would have already crossed a threshold for most indicators when fished at FMSY. This research provides useful insights on the performance of indicators, which contribute to facilitating the worldwide move toward EBFM.


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Fu Caihong, Xu Yi, Bundy Alida, Grüss Arnaud, Coll Marta, Heymans Johanna J., Fulton Elizabeth A., Shannon Lynne, Halouani Ghassen, Velez Laure, Akoğlu Ekin, Lynam Christopher P., Shin Yunne-Jai (2019). Making ecological indicators management ready: Assessing the specificity, sensitivity, and threshold response of ecological indicators. Ecological Indicators, 105, 16-28. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :