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Representing Variable Habitat Quality in a Spatial Food Web Model

Abstract

Why are marine species where they are? The scientific community is faced with an urgent need to understand aquatic ecosystem dynamics in the context of global change. This requires development of scientific tools with the capability to predict how biodiversity, natural resources, and ecosystem services will change in response to stressors such as climate change and further expansion of fishing. Species distribution models and ecosystem models are two methodologies that are being developed to further this understanding. To date, these methodologies offer limited capabilities to work jointly to produce integrated assessments that take both food web dynamics and spatial-temporal environmental variability into account. We here present a new habitat capacity model as an implementation of the spatial-temporal model Ecospace of the Ecopath with Ecosim approach. The new model offers the ability to drive foraging capacity of species from the cumulative impacts of multiple physical, oceanographic, and environmental factors such as depth, bottom type, temperature, salinity, oxygen concentrations, and so on. We use a simulation modeling procedure to evaluate sampling characteristics of the new habitat capacity model. This development bridges the gap between envelope environmental models and classic ecosystem food web models, progressing toward the ability to predict changes in marine ecosystems under scenarios of global change and explicitly taking food web direct and indirect interactions into account.

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Acknowledgments

MC was funded by the European Commission through the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant Fellowships to the BIOWEB project and the Spanish National Program Ramon y Cajal. This study forms a contribution to the Spanish Research project ECOTRANS. VC acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We thank Tom Caruthers for discussions about simulation modeling procedures.

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Correspondence to Villy Christensen.

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VC and CJW conceived of and designed the study; CJW, JS, JB, MC, and VC contributed new methods and models; all authors contributed to the evaluation of the study and writing of the paper.

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Christensen, V., Coll, M., Steenbeek, J. et al. Representing Variable Habitat Quality in a Spatial Food Web Model. Ecosystems 17, 1397–1412 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-014-9803-3

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Keywords

  • food web model
  • species distribution model
  • ecopath
  • ecospace
  • habitat modeling
  • foraging capacity model
  • sampling
  • simulation model