, Volume 113, Issue 1–3, pp 213–236 | Cite as

Modelling marine ecosystem response to climate change and trawling in the North Sea

  • Johan van der MolenEmail author
  • John N. Aldridge
  • Clare Coughlan
  • Eleanor Ruth Parker
  • David Stephens
  • Piet Ruardij


The marine ecosystem response to climate change and demersal trawling was investigated using the coupled hydrodynamic-biogeochemical water column model GOTM-ERSEM-BFM for three contrasting sites in the North Sea. Climate change forcing was derived from the HadRM3-PPE-UK regional climate model for the UK for the period 1950–2100 using historical emissions and a medium emissions scenario (SRESA1B). Effects of demersal trawling were implemented as an additional mortality on benthic fauna, and changes in the benthic–pelagic nutrient and carbon fluxes. The main impacts of climate change were (i) a temperature-driven increase in pelagic metabolic rates and nutrient cycling, (ii) an increase in primary production fuelled by recycled nutrients, (iii) a decrease in benthic biomass due to increased benthic metabolic rates and decreased food supply as a result of the increased pelagic cycling, and (iv) a decrease in near-bed oxygen concentrations. The main impacts of trawling were (i) reduced benthic biomass due to the increased mortality, and (ii) the increased benthic–pelagic nutrient fluxes, with these effects counteracting each other, and relatively small changes in other variables. One important consequence was a large decrease in the de-nitrification flux predicted at the two summer-stratified sites because less benthic nitrate was available. The effects of trawling scaled linearly with fishing effort, with greatest sensitivity to fishing in summer compared to fishing in winter. The impacts of climate change and trawling were additive, suggesting little or no non-linear interactions between these disturbances.


Biogeochemistry Climate change Trawling Anthropogenic impact North Sea 



The research was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs (Defra) through contract E3205. The authors thank the Hadley Centre for making the HadRM3-PPE-UK climate change scenario available, and the BADC for their mediation.


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Copyright information

© UK Crown 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johan van der Molen
    • 1
    Email author
  • John N. Aldridge
    • 1
  • Clare Coughlan
    • 1
  • Eleanor Ruth Parker
    • 1
  • David Stephens
    • 1
  • Piet Ruardij
    • 2
  1. 1.The Centre for EnvironmentFisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)LowestoftUK
  2. 2.Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)Den Burg, TexelThe Netherlands

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