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An indicator-based evaluation of Black Sea food web dynamics during 1960-2000

Akoğlu, Ekin
Salihoğlu, Barış
OGUZ, Temel
Four Ecopath mass-balance models were implemented for evaluating the structure and function of the Black Sea ecosystem using several ecological indicators during four distinctive periods (1960s, 1980-1987,1988-1994 and 1995-2000). The results exemplify how the Black Sea ecosystem structure started to change after the 1960s as a result of a series of trophic transformations, i.e., shifts in the energy flow pathways through the food web. These transformations were initiated by anthropogenic factors, such as eutrophication and overfishing, that led to the transfer of large quantities of energy to the trophic dead-end species, which had no natural predators in the ecosystem, i.e., jellyfish whose biomass increased from 0.03 g C m(-2) in 1960-1969 to 0.933 g C m(-2) in 1988-1994. Concurrently, an alternative short pathway for energy transfer was formed that converted significant amounts of system production back to detritus. This decreased the transfer efficiency of energy flow from the primary producers to the higher trophic levels from 9% in the 1960s to 3% between 1980 and 1987. We conclude that the anchovy stock collapse and successful establishment of the alien comb-jelly Mnemiopsis in 1989 were rooted in the trophic interactions in the food web, all of which were exacerbated because of the long-term establishment of a combination of anthropogenic stressors.