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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 417:193-210 (2010)  -  DOI:

Ecosystem assessment of the North-Central Adriatic Sea: towards a multivariate reference framework

Marta Coll1,2,* Alberto Santojanni3,4, Isabel Palomera1, Enrico Arneri3,4

1Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37–49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax NS B3H4J1, Canada
3Istituto di Scienze Marine (CNR), Sede di Ancona, Largo Fiera della pesca 2, 60125 Ancona, Italy
4Present address: FAO AdriaMed and MedSudMed projects, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy

ABSTRACT: We analyzed data from catch statistics, scientific surveys and results from ecosystem models to assess main changes in marine resources of the North-Central Adriatic Sea (Central Mediterranean) from the mid 1970s to the early 2000s. We then quantified food-web changes using these datasets and trophodynamic indicators. We applied time series trends and a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to reduce the number of multivariate dimensions and to define ecosystem reference directions. To assess the correlation between ecological indicators and abiotic (human or environmental) factors, we used the non-parametric BIO-ENV procedure. Results illustrated a general decrease in the biomass and catch of target species with time, with a first phase of increasing catch and biomass of some organisms from the 1970s to the 1980s, a ‘fishing down the food web’ process during the 1980s, and a clear trend towards biomass and catch reductions during the late 1990s and early 2000s. These changes occurred in parallel with an increase in fishing effort and human development in the basin and changes in environmental factors such as an increase in the average annual sea water temperature, a decrease in the inflow of highly saline Mediterranean water into the Adriatic Sea, and changes in the atmospheric pressure at sea level. We found a high and significant correlation between ecological indicators and abiotic factors (in particular with human factors: fishing effort and the human development index). Results from the PCA summarized main ecosystem trends and could be used as a reference framework. These results complement traditional single-species fisheries assessments and inform on past trajectories and present ecological status of the North-Central Adriatic Sea.

KEY WORDS: Food-web model · Catch statistics · Biomass surveys · Trophodynamic indicators · Fishing impact · Environmental factors · Ecosystem-reference directions · Adriatic Sea · Mediterranean

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Cite this article as: Coll M, Santojanni A, Palomera I, Arneri E (2010) Ecosystem assessment of the North-Central Adriatic Sea: towards a multivariate reference framework. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 417:193-210.

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