Trophic modeling of the Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem, Part I: Comparing trophic linkages under La Nina and El Nino conditions
The El Niño of 199798 was one of the strongest warming events of the past century; among many other effects, it impacted phytoplankton along the Peruvian coast by changing species composition and reducing biomass. While responses of the main fish resources to this natural perturbation are relatively well known, understanding the ecosystem response as a whole requires an ecotrophic multispecies approach. In this work, we construct trophic models of the Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem (NHCE) and compare the La Niña (LN) years in 199596 with the El Niño (EN) years in 199798. The model area extends from 4°S16°S and to 60 nm from the coast. The model consists of 32 functional groups of organisms and differs from previous trophic models of the Peruvian system through: (i) division of plankton into size classes to account for EN-associated changes and feeding preferences of small pelagic fish, (ii) increased division of demersal groups and separation of life history stages of hake, (iii) inclusion of mesopelagic fish, and (iv) incorporation of the jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas), which became abundant following EN. Results show that EN reduced the size and organization of energy flows of the NHCE, but the overall functioning (proportion of energy flows used for respiration, consumption by predators, detritus and export) of the ecosystem was maintained. The reduction of diatom biomass during EN forced omnivorous planktivorous fish to switch to a more zooplankton-dominated diet, raising their trophic level. Consequently, in the EN model the trophic level increased for several predatory groups (mackerel, other large pelagics, sea birds, pinnipeds) and for fishery catch. A high modeled biomass of macrozooplankton was needed to balance the consumption by planktivores, especially during EN condition when observed diatoms biomass diminished dramatically. Despite overall lower planktivorous fish catches, the higher primary production required-to-catch ratio implied a stronger ecological impact of the fishery and stresses the need for precautionary management of fisheries during and after EN. During EN energetic indicators such as the lower primary production/total biomass ratio suggest a more energetically efficient ecosystem, while reduced network indicators such as the cycling index and relative ascendency indicate of a less organized state of the ecosystem. Compared to previous trophic models of the NHCE we observed: (i) a shrinking of ecosystem size in term of energy flows, (ii) slight changes in overall functioning (proportion of energy flows used for respiration, consumption by predators and detritus), and (iii) the use of alternate pathways leading to a higher ecological impact of the fishery for planktivorous fish.
Tam, Jorge C. / Taylor, Marc Hollis / Blaskovic, Veronica / et al: Trophic modeling of the Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem, Part I: Comparing trophic linkages under La Nina and El Nino conditions. 2008.
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