, 40:786 | Cite as

Effects of Altered Offshore Food Webs on Coastal Ecosystems Emphasize the Need for Cross-Ecosystem Management

  • Britas Klemens Eriksson
  • Katrin Sieben
  • Johan Eklöf
  • Lars Ljunggren
  • Jens Olsson
  • Michele Casini
  • Ulf Bergström
Review Paper


By mainly targeting larger predatory fish, commercial fisheries have indirectly promoted rapid increases in densities of their prey; smaller predatory fish like sprat, stickleback and gobies. This process, known as mesopredator release, has effectively transformed many marine offshore basins into mesopredator-dominated ecosystems. In this article, we discuss recent indications of trophic cascades on the Atlantic and Baltic coasts of Sweden, where increased abundances of mesopredatory fish are linked to increased nearshore production and biomass of ephemeral algae. Based on synthesis of monitoring data, we suggest that offshore exploitation of larger predatory fish has contributed to the increase in mesopredator fish also along the coasts, with indirect negative effects on important benthic habitats and coastal water quality. The results emphasize the need to rebuild offshore and coastal populations of larger predatory fish to levels where they regain their control over lower trophic levels and important links between offshore and coastal systems are restored.


Mesopredator release Human transformation Commercial fisheries Cod Baltic Sea Swedish coast 



Johan S. Eklöf was funded by FORMAS (grants no. 2008-839 and 2009-1086). The contribution of Jens Olsson, Michele Casini, and Ulf Bergström was made within the PLAN FISH project funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks to Han Olff and Helmut Hillebrand for inspiring discussions about cross ecosystem and predator removal effects, to Gustav Johansson for artwork and to Per Olov Moksnes and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Britas Klemens Eriksson
    • 1
  • Katrin Sieben
    • 1
  • Johan Eklöf
    • 2
  • Lars Ljunggren
    • 3
  • Jens Olsson
    • 3
  • Michele Casini
    • 4
  • Ulf Bergström
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Marine Benthic Ecology & Evolution, Centre for Ecological & Evolutionary StudiesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Systems EcologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Institute of Coastal ResearchSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesÖregrundSweden
  4. 4.Institute for Marine ResearchSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesLysekilSweden

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