, 636:331 | Cite as

Evaluating ecosystem structure and functioning of the East China Sea Shelf ecosystem, China

  • Yunkai Li
  • Yong Chen
  • Derek Olson
  • Na Yu
  • Liqiao ChenEmail author
Primary Research Paper


As China’s second-largest large marine ecosystem, the East China Sea Shelf has suffered from overfishing, eutrophication, and physical disturbance over the last several decades. A trophic mass-balance model of this ecosystem was developed in order to characterize the structure and functioning of its food web, to identify its keystone species, and to quantify the ecological impacts of fishing that it sustained during the early 2000s. Using a multivariate statistical analysis, we identified 38 functional groups for the trophic model, including fish and invertebrate groups targeted and not targeted by fisheries. Pelagic sharks and rays were identified as the keystone species in the ecosystem. Strong benthic–pelagic coupling was indicated in this ecosystem. In particular, this study highlighted the interdependent relationships that exist among plankton, benthic invertebrates, and detritus. Recent fishing activities were characterized by high exploitation rates for various commercially targeted and non-targeted species, leading to the removal of much of the ecosystem’s fishable production. Overall, our findings give a preliminary explanation of the current problems of eutrophication and fishery depletion and other changes in the East China Sea Shelf, and highlight the need for developing ecosystem-based fisheries management.


East China Sea Shelf Food web model Ecopath with Ecosim Network analysis Keystone species Fishing impact 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Cameron Ainsworth in the UBC Fishery Center, for his enthusiastic help with the questions and his support in the model construction and uncertainty analysis. We thank Dr. Simone Libralato for giving advice on keystone species identification. We thank Dr. Shengfa Li from the East China Sea Fishery Research Institute for providing some of the data. The authors also thank the two anonymous referees for their constructive comments. Yunkai Li was supported by the Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars, State Education Ministry, the Shanghai Education Commission Foundation for Excellent Young High Education Teacher of China, and Key Project of Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission (Grant #08DZ1203101, #08DZ1203102).

Supplementary material

10750_2009_9964_MOESM1_ESM.doc (159 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 159 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yunkai Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yong Chen
    • 3
    • 2
  • Derek Olson
    • 3
  • Na Yu
    • 1
  • Liqiao Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Life ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.The Key Laboratory of Sustainable Exploitation of Oceanic Fisheries Resources, Ministry of EducationShanghai Ocean UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of Marine SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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