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Historical changes of the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem: modelling the role and impact of primary productivity and fisheries changes over time

Abstract : The Mediterranean Sea has been defined "under siege" because of intense pressures from multiple human activities; yet there is still insufficient information on the cumulative impact of these stressors on the ecosystem and its resources. We evaluate how the historical (1950-2011) trends of various ecosystems groups/species have been impacted by changes in primary productivity (PP) combined with fishing pressure. We investigate the whole Mediterranean Sea using a food web modelling approach. Results indicate that both changes in PP and fishing pressure played an important role in driving species dynamics. Yet, PP was the strongest driver upon the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem. This highlights the importance of bottom-up processes in controlling the biological characteristics of the region. We observe a reduction in abundance of important fish species (~34%, including commercial and non-commercial) and top predators (~41%), and increases of the organisms at the bottom of the food web (~23%). Ecological indicators, such as community biomass, trophic levels, catch and diversity indicators, reflect such changes and show overall ecosystem degradation over time. Since climate change and fishing pressure are expected to intensify in the Mediterranean Sea, this study constitutes a baseline reference for stepping forward in assessing the future management of the basin. Marine ecosystems around the world are increasingly pressured by a diversity of anthropogenic stressors, which include intensive fisheries and aquaculture, pollution, habitat loss and degradation, and species invasions 1,2. These are acting synergistically with global climate change 3. Since human stressors change over time 4 , the assessment of their temporal cumulative effects has been poorly studied and remains a challenging task 2. Because these stressors are rapidly increasing, understanding how human interactions, the environment, and marine species interact and influence each other, and how such dynamics affect the sustainability of goods and services they provide, is of urgent importance. Currently this is a priority of many national and international regulations/initiatives (e.g., European Marine Strategy Framework Directive [MSFD; 2008/56/EC]; Convention of Biological Diversity, [CBD], Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services [IPBES]) which promote the preservation of natural ecosystems and a sustainable use of biodiversity resources. In support of these regulations, new comprehensive scientific tools have been developed with the goal of integrating the effects of the above-mentioned stressors into common frameworks in order to assist policy decisions 1,5,6. Particularly in the context of ecosystem-based management approach (EBM), which assesses ecosystem
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Chiara Piroddi, Marta Coll, Camino Liquete, Diego Macias, Krista Greer, et al.. Historical changes of the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem: modelling the role and impact of primary productivity and fisheries changes over time. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2017, 7 (1), ⟨10.1038/srep44491⟩. ⟨hal-01927287⟩

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