The Celtic Sea Through Time and Space: Ecosystem Modeling to Unravel Fishing and Climate Change Impacts on Food-Web Structure and Dynamics

Both trophic structure and biomass flow within marine food webs are influenced by the abiotic environment and anthropogenic stressors such as fishing. The abiotic environment has a large effect on species spatial distribution patterns and productivity and, consequently, spatial co-occurrence between predators and prey, while fishing alters species abundances and food-web structure. In order to disentangle the impacts of the abiotic environment and fishing in the Celtic Sea ecosystem, we developed a spatio-temporal trophic model, specifically an Ecopath with Ecosim with Ecospace model, for the period 1985–2016. In this model, particular attention was paid to the parameterization of the responses of all trophic levels to abiotic environmental changes. Satellite remote sensing data were employed to determine the spatial distribution and annual fluctuations of primary production (PP). Spatial and temporal changes in the habitat favorable for zooplankton were predicted with a novel ecological-niche approach using daily detection of productivity fronts from satellite ocean color. Finally, functional responses characterizing the effect of several abiotic environmental variables (including, among others, temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen concentration, both at the surface and at the bottom) on fish species groups’ habitat suitability were produced from the predictions of statistical habitat models fitted to presence-absence data collected by multiple fisheries-independent surveys. The dynamic component of our model (Ecosim) was driven by time-series of fishing effort, PP, zooplankton habitat suitability and abiotic environmental variables, and was fitted to abundance and fisheries catch data. The spatial component of our model (Ecospace) was constructed, for specific years of the period 1985–2016 with contrasted abiotic environmental conditions, to predict the variable distribution of the biomass of all functional groups. We found that fishing was the main driver of observed ecosystem changes in the Celtic Sea over the period 1985–2016. However, the integration of the environmental variability into the model and the subsequent improvement of the fit of the dynamic Ecosim component highlighted (i) the control of the overall pelagic production by PP and (ii) the influence of temperature on the productivity of several trophic levels in the Celtic Sea, especially on trophic groups with warm and cold water affinities. In addition, Ecospace predictions indicated that the spatial distributions of commercial fish species may have substantially changed over the studied period. These spatial changes mainly appeared to be driven by temperature and may, therefore, largely impact future fisheries given the continuity of climatic changes.


Celtic Sea, ecosystem modeling, habitat model, environment, Ecopath with Ecosim and Ecospace, primary production, fishing impact

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Hernvann Pierre-Yves, Gascuel Didier, Grüss Arnaud, Druon Jean-Noël, Kopp Dorothee, Perez Ilan, Piroddi Chiara, Robert Marianne (2020). The Celtic Sea Through Time and Space: Ecosystem Modeling to Unravel Fishing and Climate Change Impacts on Food-Web Structure and Dynamics. Frontiers In Marine Science. 7. 578717 (26p.).,

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