Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 351–363 | Cite as

Modeling Trophic Structure and Energy Flows in a Coastal Artificial Ecosystem Using Mass-Balance Ecopath Model

  • Shannan Xu
  • Zuozhi Chen
  • Shiyu Li
  • Peimin He


Using a large-scale enclosed sea area in northern Hangzhou Bay as a case study, the trophic interactions, energy flows, and ecosystem properties of a coastal artificial ecosystem were analyzed by ecotrophic modeling using Ecopath with Ecosim software (EwE, 5.1 version). The model consists of 13 functional groups: piscivorous fish, benthic-feeding fish, zooplanktivorous fish, herbivorous fish, crabs, shrimp, mollusca, infauna, carnivorous zooplankton, herbivorous zooplankton, macrophytes, phytoplankton, and detritus. Input information for the model was gathered from published and unpublished reports and from our own estimates during the period 2006–2007. Results show that the food web in the enclosed sea area was dominated by a detritus pathway. The trophic levels of the groups varied from 1.00 for primary producers and detritus to 3.90 for piscivorous fish in the coastal artificial system. Using network analysis, the system network was mapped into a linear food chain, and five discrete trophic levels were found with a mean transfer efficiency of 9.8% from detritus and 9.4% from primary producer within the ecosystem. The geometric mean of the trophic transfer efficiencies was 9.6%. Detritus contributed 57% of the total energy flux, and the other 43% came from primary producers. The ecosystem maturity indices—total primary production/total respiration, Finn’s cycling index, and ascendancy—were 2.56, 25.0%, and 31.0%, respectively, showing that the coastal artificial system is at developmental stage according to Odum’s theory of ecosystem development. Generally, this is the first trophic model of a large-scale artificial sea enclosure in China and provides some useful insights into the structure and functioning of the system.


Ecopath model Trophic structure Energy transfer Trophic level Detrital flows Artificial ecosystem 



The authors thank the CDMCJS for the use of the data and unpublished information incorporated in this study. This study was supported by the Bioremediation Engineering Program of City Beach in Jinshan District, Shanghai; China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (no. 20090460825); Open Project Program of the Key Laboratory of Mariculture, Ecology, and Quality Control, Ministry of Agriculture, South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (no. 2008B1204); Open Project Program of the Key Laboratory of Marine Bio-resources Sustainable Utilization, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (no. LMB091009); and the Special Project of the Social Commonwealth Research of the National Science Research Institute (no. 2010ZD01). Furthermore, we are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Mariculture, Ecology and Quality Control, Ministry of AgricultureSouth China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery SciencesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.College of Fisheries and Life ScienceShanghai Ocean UniversityShanghaiChina

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