Food-web interactions in a coastal ecosystem influenced by upwelling and terrestrial runoff off North-West Spain

Paradell, O.G., López, B.D., Methion, S. and Rogan, E., 2020. Food-web interactions in a coastal ecosystem influenced by upwelling and terrestrial runoff off North-West Spain. Marine Environmental Research, p.104933.


Ecopath with Ecosim has been used to create mass-balance models of different type of ecosystems around the world to explore and analyse their functioning and structure. This modelling framework has become a key tool in the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, by providing a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the interactions between the different species. Additionally, Ecopath with Ecosim has provided a useful framework to study ecosystem maturity, changes in the ecosystem functioning over time and the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the ecosystem, among other aspects. The present work explores the ecosystem functioning and structure in an anthropogenically impacted coastal area, influenced by seasonal coastal upwelling and high input of nutrients from rias (ancient drowned tectonic valleys) off North-West Spain. A mass-balance model with 23 functional groups was created using Ecopath to study the trophic interactions in the ecosystem during the post-upwelling period (August to October) in 2017. The model described an immature, wasp-waist ecosystem, that shared characteristics of ecosystems found in upwelling areas and ecosystems found in fjords or coastal embayments. Deeper analyses highlighted the importance of small planktivorous pelagic fish as a keystone functional group, and of zooplankton, blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) and phytoplankton as structuring groups in the ecosystem. Additionally, the study revealed that the existing fishing pressure on species of intermediate-high trophic levels could alter ecosystem functioning and structure, and ultimately affect top predators in the area. Findings of this study provide baseline information in ecosystem functioning and structure in the area and highlight the need to deeper study the effects of fisheries and their potential impacts on top predators.

Anthropogenic food resources, sardine decline and environmental conditions have triggered a dietary shift of an opportunistic seabird over the last 30 years on the northwest coast of Spain

Calado, J.G., Paiva, V.H., Ramos, J.A., Velando, A. & Munilla, I., 2020. Anthropogenic food resources, sardine decline and environmental conditions have triggered a dietary shift of an opportunistic seabird over the last 30 years on the northwest coast of Spain. Regional Environmental Change, 20(1), p.10.


Human activities and environmental conditions are the main drivers of ecosystem change. One major alteration near the western Iberian coast has been the collapse of the Atlanto-Iberian sardine Sardina pilchardus stock, with important cascading effects on marine top predators. We investigated the effect of long-term changes in fishery landings, sardine availability and environmental conditions on the diet of the yellow-legged gull Larus michahellis in the northwest coast of Spain, over the last 30 years (1987–2017). Dietary trends of gulls were investigated through the analysis of 5010 pellets that revealed a sharp decline of fish and refuse and a shift to a crustacean-based diet. General additive mixed models showed that both total fish and sardine occurrences in gull pellets were negatively associated with total fishery landings and positively associated with sardine landings, suggesting fish depletion and higher fishing efficiency (i.e. reduced discards) during the study period. The winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was also positively related with sardine occurrence in gull pellets, possibly due to low sardine abundance and rough conditions in years with very low NAO values. The refuse decline was most probably caused by the closure of open-air landfills, implemented under the European Union Landfill Directive. Our results suggest that changes in fishing practices and waste disposal were the main factors responsible for the sharp decline of fish and refuse in yellow-legged gull diet.