Evaluating red tide effects on the West Florida Shelf using a spatiotemporal ecosystem modeling framework

Sci Rep. 2023 Feb 13;13(1):2541. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-29327-z.


The West Florida Shelf (WFS), located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, fosters high species richness and supports highly valuable fisheries. However, red tide events occur regularly that can impact fisheries resources as well as ecosystem state, functioning, and derived services. Therefore, it is important to evaluate and quantify the spatiotemporal impacts of red tides to improve population assessments, mitigate potential negative effects through management, and better understand disturbances to support an ecosystem-based management framework. To model red tide effects on the marine community, we used Ecospace, the spatiotemporal module of the ecosystem modeling framework Ecopath with Ecosim. The inclusion of both lethal and sublethal response functions to red tide and a comprehensive calibration procedure allowed to systematically evaluate red tide effects and increased the robustness of the model and management applicability. Our results suggest severe red tide impacts have occurred on the WFS at the ecosystem, community, and population levels in terms of biomass, catch, and productivity. Sublethal and indirect food-web effects of red tide triggered compensatory responses such as avoidance behavior and release from predation and/or competition.. This study represents a step forward to operationalize spatiotemporal ecosystem models for management purposes that may increase the ability of fisheries managers to respond more effectively and be more proactive to episodic mortality events, such as those caused by red tides.

PMID:36781942 | PMC:PMC9925760 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-023-29327-z


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