WP5 Assessing the ecosystem and its components


WP5 aims to assess the status of the ecosystem across all case studies (Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Balearic Sea, Baltic Sea, Bay of Biscay, Black Sea, Levantine Sea, North Sea) and the status of ecosystem components including commercial and non-commercial fish and shellfish, communities, habitats and megafauna (marine mammals, reptiles seabirds, large sharks and rays) through a series of indicators that will be available on the EcoScopium public portal. The ultimate objective of WP5 is to develop a scoring system, the EcoScope Toolbox, comprised of several metrics from different WPs that will be used for management and policy purposes as well as for comparisons among areas and management scenarios. The specific objectives of WP5 that will be applied to all case studies (and to larger regions if data availability permits) are to:

  1. Assess commercial and non-commercial fish and invertebrate stocks using novel methods
  2. Evaluate anthropogenic and climate induced changes in marine communities
  3. Assess the status of protected megafauna groups and habitats
  4. Determine overall ecosystem fisheries exploitation and potential profitability
  5. Perform a marine ecosystem assessment and develop a scoring system based on various metrics, indices and indicators
Description of Work

WP5 is structured from stock to ecosystem level and organized at an increasing level of biological (and modelling) complexity. The WP will assess the status of all ecosystem components ranging from habitats, non-commercial fish and shellfish (by-catch and discarded species or those collected only during scientific surveys and are not part of the catch) to commercial stocks as well as megafauna that are vulnerable or protected by national and international legislation and conventions). The analyses will be based on oceanographic data from WP3, species distributions data from WP4, fisheries data from FAO, ICES, GFCM and the Sea Around Us project and biomass/abundance data from various sources including ICES, biomass databases and stock assessments. All the tasks are interlinked and the links to and from other WP are highlighted below in the Task description. As this field of science is dynamic, any novel methods that will be developed by consortium members will be used to assess populations/stocks, species and ecosystems and will be incorporated into the WP and included in the EcoScope Toolbox. The EcoScope Toolbox, will be a key scoring system for the Blue Growth Initiative (impact on fisheries and coastal communities), for achieving several Good Environmental Status descriptors of the Marine Strategy Framework (MSFD) and for the stock and exploitation targets of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).


Commercial and non-commercial fish and invertebrate stocks will be assessed based on a string of new tools (LBB, CMSY, AMSY, for definitions see Section 1.3) that have been designed for application in data-poor situations but will also work in data rich fisheries as they are often more robust compared to complex assessment models that are data-hungry. These tools, that have varying data requirements and can be extremely useful for un-assessed stocks, rely on catch (CMSY), abundance/biomass (AMSY) and length frequency distribution (LBB) to derive fisheries reference points in the context of MSY and for stocks that are at risk (SAR). The assessments will be performed per case study, but larger ecoregions will also be assessed based on FAO/GFCM/ICES and Sea Around Us catch data and other sources of information. This will be the first massive assessment of previously un assessed non-commercial fish and invertebrate stocks and will allow the assessment of many stocks in data-poor areas (link to WP2) as these methods have been specifically designed for data deficiencies. The output of these assessments will be available on the EcoScopium public portal and the status of fish and invertebrate stocks will form one of the basic indicators of the EcoScope Toolbox (WP5; see Task 5.5).

Duration: M1-M18 – Task Leader: CNR – Participants: AUTH, IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CEBC, EVILVO.

A series of community indicators will be examined to assess ecosystem health and anthropogenic effects (climate and fisheries) on marine communities. Besides the classic biodiversity indices that are available through PRIMER software, several other community indices (e.g. N90, BESITO, mTLc, for definitions see below) will be calculated directly for each case study, ecoregion or map cell to examine the impact of fishing on marine communities, while others that are related to climate change and variability (e.g. mean temperature of the catch, MTC) will also be determined at the same scales. BESITO (BEnthic Sensitivity Index to Trawling Operations), developed to classify the species according to their sensitivity to trawling, is based on biological traits that are impacted by trawling, while N90 detects the impact of bottom trawling on demersal species and epibenthic fauna. The mTLc (mean trophic level of the catch) has been extensively used to assess the effect of biomass removal by fisheries on marine communities and ecosystems, while the MTC (mean temperature of the catch) evaluates the effect of sea temperature increase and the impact of climate change on community level building on species distributions and niche modelling of WP4. The community indices calculated by the ecosystem models (WP6) will also be considered here. The community status of each case study will be uploaded on the EcoScopium public portal together with fisheries management and climate change scenarios as well as their effects on communities (WP6).

Duration: M6-M24 – Task Leader: IEO – Participants: AUTH, IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CEBC, EVILVO, Hidromod, CNR.

The habitats in each case study will be evaluated based on the preference of each species and the conservation status of a large number of protected megafauna groups will be assessed using novel methods (see Sub-Task 5.3.2 below) along with the energy requirements of some megafauna groups. Particular reference will be made to essential fish habitats because of their importance in overall ecosystem health (link to WP3 for habitat mapping and to WP4 and species distributions based on their habitat preferences). The task is divided in three (3) sub-tasks that will run in parallel.

Sub-Task 5.3.1. Habitat mapping and evaluation

Existing habitat maps available on the EcoScope Platform (WP3) will be evaluated with respect to the preference of each species (with feedback from WP4), and especially with respect to essential fish habitats. These habitats include the waters (along with the associated physical, chemical and biological properties of the sea) and substrates (including sediment, hard bottom and the biota on them) necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity, i.e. for completing a full life cycle to support a sustainable fishery and contribute to a healthy ecosystem (with feedback from WP3). The output of this evaluation will be performed for each case study/ecosystem or ecoregion and will be available on the EcoScopium public portal, and the habitat suitability and status will be one of the key indicators of the EcoScope Toolbox (WP5; see Task 5.5).

Sub-task Duration: M13-M30 – Sub-task Leader: EVILVO – Participants: AUTH, DUTH, IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CNR

Sub-Task 5.3.2. Assessment of protected megafauna

The decision support tool JARA (Just Another Red-List Assessment) is a Bayesian state-space framework that allows both process error and uncertainty to be incorporated into IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List assessments under criterion A of IUCN). The output of JARA, which will be determined for all megafauna species per case study/ecosystem or ecoregion for which information exists, shows the probability of a population decline displayed against the IUCN Red List categories, and assigns each category a probability with uncertainty. The output of these assessments will be available on the EcoScopium public portal and the number of megafauna groups at risk of extinction will form one of the indicators of the EcoScope Toolbox (WP5).

Sub-task Duration: M13-M30 – Sub-task Leader: AUTH – Participants: IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CEBC, EVILVO, CNR

Sub-Task 5.3.3. Energyscapes of marine megafauna

In order to identify critically important habitats for marine megafauna, and better inform species distribution models, we will calculate animal energyscapes across their year cycle. Energyscapes are defined as variations in the energy requirements of an organism across geographical space as a function of biotic and abiotic environmental conditions. This approach will notably test the impact of climate change on the energy requirements and the distribution patterns of marine megafauna, in the context of concurrent use of these spaces for human activities. All megafauna species for which biological information are available to parameterize the energetics models will be included (several species of seabirds and marine mammals, marine reptiles and a few large sharks depending on the availability of data and the gap analysis of WP2), and the climatic data will be derived from WP3 and WP4. These new methodological developments will flow into the EcoScope Toolbox (WP5).

Sub-task Duration: M13-M36 – Sub-task Leader: CEBC – Participants: AUTH, IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, EVILVO, CNR

Within Task 5.4, three ecosystem overfishing indices will be calculated and compared with the biomass-based, catch- based, trophic-based and species-based indicators that will be calculated in the ecosystem models of WP6, while the index of fisheries profitability per case study/ecosystem or ecoregion will be calculated based on the current sustainability level (WP7), thus directly linking WP5 with WP3, WP6 and WP7. Based on the fisheries exploitation indicators, the fisheries profitability index will be determined for any fisheries management scenario (feedback from WP6) and will be closely connected to the economic analyses that will be performed in WP7. Three novel indicators and accompanying thresholds that have been proposed to detect and delineate ecosystem fisheries exploitation or ecosystem overfishing (EOF) will be applied per case study or ecoregion. These indices (the Fogarty Index, the Friedland Index, and the Ryther Index) are based on widely available and readily interpreted catch and satellite data and link fisheries catch/ landings to primary production using known limits of trophic transfer efficiency. Among the output of the ecosystem models (WP6), a series of biomass-based, catch-based, trophic-based and species-based indicators will be calculated with the EwE ECOIND plug-in and will be used to model ecosystem function and management scenarios. These indicators will also be used in the present WP after the completion of simulations and scenarios within WP6 they will be available on the EcoScopium public portal and will form an indicator of the EcoScope Toolbox (WP5).

Duration: M19-M40 – Task Leader: AUTH – Participants: IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CEBC, EVILVO, CNR, NIVA, EII.

A marine ecosystem assessment will be conducted in each case study to provide an overarching and integrated assessment adapted to the needs of various end-users. A robust framework will be created to directly support end- users, especially policy makers, and to provide context for derivative (those based on reviewing scientific literature) assessments and fisheries stock assessments. One of the main products of the project the EcoScope Toolbox will be developed within this WP. The EcoScope Toolbox will consist of metrics and tools that will produce a total and comparable score for each ecosystem, case study or ecoregion and will be co-designed and evaluated by stakeholders (feedback from WP8). Each metric will be measured using a single variable or a combination of various variables, based on the status and trends, environmental (feedback from WP3) or anthropogenic pressure (feedback from WP4), economic indicators (feedback from WP7) and resilience to change (feedback from WP4 and energyscapes of Task 5.4). The overall concept is to develop a universal Toolbox that can be applied anywhere in the world at various scales depending on the data and boundaries and to have a specific set of metrics that can be used independently in each case study and in other areas of the world to support international and local policies and directives.

Duration: M19-M48 – Task Leader: AUTH – Participants: DUTH, IBER, GEOMAR, IOLR, IEO, CEBC, EVILVO, EMB, CNR, NIVA, EII.

Lead: AUTH | Duration: 48 months

D5.1 Report on fish and invertebrate stock assessments

Type: reportDissemination: publicDue: M24

D5.2 Report on marine communities evaluation

Type: reportDissemination: confidentialDue: M26

D5.3 Report on habitat evaluation, megafauna assessment and energyscapes

Type: reportDissemination: confidentialDue: M38

D5.4 Report on ecosystem fisheries exploitation indices

Type: reportDissemination: confidentialDue: M42

D5.5 Report on Marine Ecosystem Assessment and EcoScope Toolbox

Type: reportDissemination: confidentialDue: M48