Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8835
Title: Modeling food-web effects of low sardine and anchovy abundance in the California Current
Author: I. C. Kaplan, Laura E. Koehn, Emma E. Hodgson, Kristin Marshall, T. E. Essington
Publication Year: 2017
Journal: Ecological Modelling
Keywords: sardine,anchovy,seabird,Atlantis ecosystem model,California sea lion

Populations of sardine, anchovy, and other forage species can fluctuate to low levels due to climate variability and fishing, leading to indirect effects on marine food webs. In the context of recent declines of sardine (Sardinops sagax) and anchovy (Engraulis mordax) in the California Current, we apply an end-to-end Atlantis ecosystem model that is spatially explicit, includes trophic interactions, and allows high and low recruitment regimes (production of juveniles). Our simulations suggest that depleted sardine populations, whether caused by fishing or natural cycles, may lead to declines in predator groups such as dolphins and large piscivorous flatfish (e.g. California halibut Paralichthys californicus). Birds exhibited more moderate declines, and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) exhibited relatively weak declines. The Atlantis ecosystem model also predicted indirect positive effects of sardine depletion, primarily for prey species such as zooplankton. Overall our model predicted moderate declines in most predators during simulated severe declines in sardine and anchovy, illustrating the important buffering role provided by forage species other than sardine and anchovy. This ‘buffered response’ is weaker than what would be suggested by another ecosystem model (Ecosim), as predicted by diet information and a global synthesis of Ecosim models (the PREP equation).  One limitation of the Atlantis model is that it did not include processes that might give rise to localized depletion of sardine at scales relevant to central place foragers, such as birds and pinnipeds. This analysis will contribute to a collaborative multi-model approach that evaluates the role of sardine in the California Current.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Characterize ecological interactions (e.g. predation, competition, parasitism, disease, etc.) within and among species.
Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management