Reconstructing Historical Marine Ecosystems Using Food Web Models: Northern British Columbia from Pre-European Contact to Present

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Ecosystem-based management, Ecosystem restoration, British Columbia, Trophic models, Ecopath with Ecosim, Historic reconstruction

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Mass-balance trophic models (Ecopath with Ecosim) are developed for the marine ecosystem of northern British Columbia (BC) for the historical periods 1750, 1900, 1950 and 2000 AD. Time series data are compiled for catch, fishing mortality and biomass using fisheries statistics and literature values. Using the assembled dataset, dynamics of the 1950-based simulations are fitted to agree with observations over 50 years to 2000 through the manipulation of trophic flow parameters and the addition of climate factors: a primary production anomaly and herring recruitment anomaly. The predicted climate anomalies reflect documented environmental series, most strongly sea surface temperature and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index. The best-fit predator–prey interaction parameters indicate mixed trophic control of the ecosystem. Trophic flow parameters from the fitted 1950 model are transferred to the other historical periods assuming stationarity in density-dependent foraging tactics. The 1900 model exhibited an improved fit to data using this approach, which suggests that the pattern of trophic control may have remained constant over much of the last century. The 1950 model is driven forward 50 years using climate and historical fishing drivers. The resulting ecosystem is compared to the 2000 model, and the dynamics of these models are compared in a predictive forecast to 2050. The models suggest similar restoration trajectories after a hypothetical release from fishing.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Ecological Modelling, v. 216, issue 3-4, p. 354-368