Assessing the Abilities of Ecopath with Ecosim Models to Identify Climate Impacts to Upper Trophic Level Species in Canada's Marine Ecosystems

Description

An example food web for the Strait of Georgia, showing the taxonomic groupings and the feeding linkages among these groups. Species groups that obtain their food largely from bottom plants (benthic) are to the right of the diagram, and species groups that obtain their food largely from plants floating in the water (pelagic) are on the left of the diagram.

Ecosystem models are used to help understand how the structure and function of ecosystems are affected by the impacts of fishing, climate change, and environmental variability. They also help to identify gaps in our understanding of species changes within ecosystems. This project examined the capabilities of the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modeling software to simulate the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. It also developed a new component of the software that enables many different climate impact simulations to be tested at the same time.

Results: Researchers used the EwE model to study how climate change may affect the marine ecosystems of the Strait of Georgia, the Beaufort Sea, and Southwest Nova Scotia over the next 60 years. Using projected changes to temperature, acidity, oxygen saturation, primary production, and zooplankton community size composition, the model helped to evaluate how marine ecosystems responded to two climate change scenarios and two different fishing scenarios. The responses of marine ecosystems to these changes were studied using a variety of ecosystem indicators, including ecosystem biodiversity, annual biomass of keystone species and their level within the food chain, and the biomass of the whole ecosystem and fisheries catch.

Researchers aim to compare the responses of each ecosystem to the climate change simulations and identify the similarities and differences in the projected changes. The results of this study are being included in three scientific publications (one submitted, two in preparation).

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)

Ecoregion(s)

National

Principal Investigator(s)

Ian Perry
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Alida Bundy
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Lisa Loseto
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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