MEPS 279:45-61 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps279045

Energy flow of a boreal intertidal ecosystem, the Sylt-Rømø Bight

Dan Baird1, Harald Asmus2,*, Ragnhild Asmus2

1Department of Zoology, University of Port Elizabeth, PO Box 1600, Port Elizabeth 6000, South Africa
2Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Wadden Sea Station Sylt, Hafenstraße 43, 25992 List, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: A detailed energy flow model consisting of 56 living and 3 non-living compartments was assembled for the intertidal area of the Sylt-Rømø Bight. The model depicts the biomass of each compartment, carbon flow between the components, imports and exports, as well as an energy budget for each. The food web was analysed by means of network analysis which showed that about 17% of the total daily flow through the system is recycled through a complex cycling structure consisting of 1197 cycles. The cycling network indicated that about 99% of the recycling involves 2 to 3 compartments, with sediment bacteria and particulate organic carbon (POC) participating in most instances. Input/output analyses indicated that phytoplankton production in the Bight does not satisfy the demands of filter-feeders on an annual average basis so that about 160 mgC m-2 d-1 of phytoplankton have to be imported. We compared several dimensionless system level indices, such as internalised and normalised A/DC (ascendancy/development capacity) ratios, calculated for the Bight with those of other marine and estuarine ecosystems on a global basis. These comparisons showed that energy is rather inefficiently transferred within the Bight at a mean trophic efficiency index of 2.61%, and that most of the system level indices are lower than those of other coastal ecosystems. However, higher values were obtained for flow diversity and food web connectance compared to other systems. This study has revealed the Bight to be a highly complex system whose energy pathways appear to be sensitive to external perturbations.


KEY WORDS: Energy flow · Food web · Structure · Network analysis · System level properties · Coastal ecosystems · German Wadden Sea


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