Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8422
Title: Qualitative network models in support of ecosystem approaches to bivalve aquaculture
Author: J. C. P. Reum, P. Sean McDonald, Bridget E. Ferriss, Dara Farrell, C. J. Harvey, P. S. Levin
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: ICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume: 72
Pages: 2278-2288
Keywords: loop analysis,cumulative impacts,community interactions,food web,Puget Sound,geoduck

Predicting the effects of aquaculture development for coastal ecosystems remains challenging, particularly for data-limited systems, and tools that account for complex ecological interactions are needed to support ecosystem approaches to aquaculture. Here, we used qualitative network models (QNMs) to examine the potential community effects of increasing bivalve aquaculture in South Puget Sound, a large estuarine system in Washington, United States. QNMs are formalized conceptual models that require only a qualitative understanding of how variables composing a system interact (that is, the sign of interactions: +, –, and 0) and are therefore well-suited to data-limited systems. Specifically, we examined community-wide responses to scenarios in which bivalve cultivation effort increased for three different bivalve species (Manila clam Venerupis philippinarum, Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas, and geoduck Panopea generosa). Further, we evaluated community-wide responses to the removal of benthic bivalve predators, a future increase in nutrient loadings, and combinations of these scenarios acting simultaneously. The scenarios enabled identification of potential trade-offs between increased aquaculture and shifts in the abundance of community members and assessment of the possible effects of different management actions. We also analysed the QNM to identify key interactions that influence the sign outcome of community responses to press perturbations, highlighting potential points for management intervention and linkages deserving of more focused quantitative study. QNMs are mathematically robust and highly flexible, but remain underutilized. We suggest that they may serve as valuable tools for supporting ecosystem approaches to aquaculture.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Characterize the interaction between marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystem components.