Advancing Global Ecological Modeling Capabilities to Simulate Future Trajectories of Change in Marine Ecosystems

Last modified: 
October 29, 2020 - 4:58pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2020
Date published: 10/2020
Authors: Marta Coll, Jeroen Steenbeek, Maria Pennino, Joe Buszowski, Kristin Kaschner, Heike Lotze, Yannick Rousseau, Derek Tittensor, Carl Walters, Reg Watson, Villy Christensen
Journal title: Frontiers in Marine Science
Volume: 7

Considerable effort is being deployed to predict the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities on the ocean's biophysical environment, biodiversity, and natural resources to better understand how marine ecosystems and provided services to humans are likely to change and explore alternative pathways and options. We present an updated version of EcoOcean (v2), a spatial-temporal ecosystem modeling complex of the global ocean that spans food-web dynamics from primary producers to top predators. Advancements include an enhanced ability to reproduce spatial-temporal ecosystem dynamics by linking species productivity, distributions, and trophic interactions to the impacts of climate change and worldwide fisheries. The updated modeling platform is used to simulate past and future scenarios of change, where we quantify the impacts of alternative configurations of the ecological model, responses to climate-change scenarios, and the additional impacts of fishing. Climate-change scenarios are obtained from two Earth-System Models (ESMs, GFDL-ESM2M, and IPSL-CMA5-LR) and two contrasting emission pathways (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5) for historical (1950–2005) and future (2006–2100) periods. Standardized ecological indicators and biomasses of selected species groups are used to compare simulations. Results show how future ecological trajectories are sensitive to alternative configurations of EcoOcean, and yield moderate differences when looking at ecological indicators and larger differences for biomasses of species groups. Ecological trajectories are also sensitive to environmental drivers from alternative ESM outputs and RCPs, and show spatial variability and more severe changes when IPSL and RCP 8.5 are used. Under a non-fishing configuration, larger organisms show decreasing trends, while smaller organisms show mixed or increasing results. Fishing intensifies the negative effects predicted by climate change, again stronger under IPSL and RCP 8.5, which results in stronger biomass declines for species already losing under climate change, or dampened positive impacts for those increasing. Several species groups that win under climate change become losers under combined impacts, while only a few (small benthopelagic fish and cephalopods) species are projected to show positive biomass changes under cumulative impacts. EcoOcean v2 can contribute to the quantification of cumulative impact assessments of multiple stressors and of plausible ocean-based solutions to prevent, mitigate and adapt to global change.

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