An assessment of the trophic structure of the Bay of Biscay continental shelf food web: Comparing estimates derived from an ecosystem model and isotopic data

Abstract : Comparing outputs of ecosystem models with estimates derived from experimental and observational approaches is important in creating valuable feedback for model construction, analyses and validation. Stable isotopes and mass-balanced trophic models are well-known and widely used as approximations to describe the structure of food webs, but their consistency has not been properly established as attempts to compare these methods remain scarce. Model construction is a data-consuming step, meaning independent sets for validation are rare. Trophic linkages in the French continental shelf of the Bay of Biscay food webs were recently investigated using both methodologies. Trophic levels for mono-specific compartments representing small pelagic fish and marine mammals and multi-species functional groups corresponding to demersal fish and cephalopods, derived from modelling, were compared with trophic levels calculated from independent carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios. Estimates of the trophic niche width of those species, or groups of species, were compared between these two approaches as well. A significant and close-to-one positive (r²Spearman = 0.72, n = 16, p<0.0001) correlation was found between trophic levels estimated by Ecopath modelling and those derived from isotopic signatures. Differences between estimates were particularly low for mono-specific compartments. No clear relationship existed between indices of trophic niche width derived from both methods. Given the wide recognition of trophic levels as a useful concept in ecosystem-based fisheries management, propositions were made to further combine these two approaches.
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Géraldine Lassalle, Tiphaine Chouvelon, Paco Bustamante, Nathalie Niquil. An assessment of the trophic structure of the Bay of Biscay continental shelf food web: Comparing estimates derived from an ecosystem model and isotopic data. Progress in Oceanography, Elsevier, 2014, 120, pp.205-215. ⟨10.1016/j.pocean.2013.09.002⟩. ⟨hal-00922534⟩

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