Using sea-ice to calibrate a dynamic trophic model for the Western Antarctic Peninsula
The pelagic ecosystems of the Western Antarctic Peninsula are dynamic and changing rapidly in the face of sustained warming. There is already evidence that warming may be impacting the food web. Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, is an ice-associated species that is both an important prey item and the target of the only commercial fishery operating in the region. The goal of this study is to develop a dynamic trophic model for the region that includes the impact of the sea-ice regime on krill and krill predators. Such a model may be helpful to fisheries managers as they develop new management strategies in the face of continued sea-ice loss. A mass balanced food-web model (Ecopath) and time dynamic simulations (Ecosim) were created. The Ecopath model includes eight currently monitored species as single species to facilitate its future development into a model that could be used for marine protected area planning in the region. The Ecosim model is calibrated for the years 1996–2012. The successful calibration represents an improvement over existing Ecopath models for the region. Simulations indicate that the role of sea ice is both central and complex. The simulations are only able to recreate observed biomass trends for the monitored species when metrics describing the sea-ice regime are used to force key predator-prey interactions, and to drive the biomasses of Antarctic krill and the fish species Gobionotothen gibberifrons. This model is ready to be used for exploring results from sea-ice scenarios or to be developed into a spatial model that informs discussions regarding the design of marine protected areas in the region.