Pelagic changing ecosystems from predators’ perspective: advancing conservation efforts in southern European waters.

To characterise, understand and predict the response of the pelagic ecosystems to changing environmental conditions, we need to better understand the linkages and interactions between different trophic levels and how they are affected by the environment. With this objective in mind, we present the current research project to study the pelagic ecosystem in temperate latitudes of the NE Atlantic where external stressors such as climate change and other human-induced pressures interact.

We will focus on the pelagic realm by studying the distribution patterns, abundance and interactions of top predators and their pelagic prey. We will consider interactions at different spatial and temporal scales of this predator-prey complex (mesoscale and regional, and seasonal and interannual), as well as with abiotic (meteo-climatic and hydrographic) and biotic components (phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass).

By developping a spatially-explicit ecological modelling framework, we will develop the following specific objectives in a three step-approach:

  1. We will characterise the pelagic predator assemblage in terms on biological traits, especially foraging traits.
  2. We will investigate the spatiotemporal co-occurrence of predator-prey complex and identify ecologically meaningful areas in the pelagic realm and evaluate the potential impact of human-induced pressures such as fishing and marine litter on predator populations.
  3. We will predict how the spatiotemporal window of the predator-prey complex will change in the future.

This integrative approach facilitates the inclusion of data from various sources and will bridge gaps between advancing our knowledge on the interactions between the climate and ecosystems on the one hand, and advancing ecosystem management, on the other, for the application of the Ecosystem Approach to Fishing Management as specified in the revised Common Fishery Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Community.

The present research proposal will be developed within the general guidelines of environmental sustainability and biodiversity with the specific objective of addressing the challenge of sustainability of natural resources in general and marine ecosystems in particular within the Spanish Strategy of Science, Technology and Innovation, adapted from the new Horizon 2020 European framework for Research and Innovation.

Duration: 01/01/2014-31/12/2017.

Financing: This project is funded by the State Program for Research, Development and Innovation Oriented to the Challenges of the Society, within the framework of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2013-2016.