Towards a framework for assessment and management of cumulative human impacts on marine food webs

Salvatrice Vizzini, Loïc N. Michel, Pierre Lejeune, Sylvaine Giakoumi, Maria Sini, Stelios Katsanevakis, Arnaud Abadie, Marta Coll, Pablo Sanchez-Jerez, Sylvie Gobert, Christine Pergent-Martini, Charles-François Boudouresque, Maria-Cristina Gambi, Branko Velimirov, Paolo Guidetti, Gerard Pergent, Hugh P. Possingham, Fiorenza Micheli, Benjamin S. Halpern, Monica Montefalcone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Effective ecosystem-based management requires understanding ecosystem responses to multiple human threats, rather than focusing on single threats. To understand ecosystem responses to anthropogenic threats holistically, it is necessary to know how threats affect different components within ecosystems and ultimately alter ecosystem functioning. We used a case study of a Mediterranean seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) food web and expert knowledge elicitation in an application of the initial steps of a framework for assessment of cumulative human impacts on food webs. We produced a conceptual seagrass food web model, determined the main trophic relationships, identified the main threats to the food web components, and assessed the components' vulnerability to those threats. Some threats had high (e.g., coastal infrastructure) or low impacts (e.g., agricultural runoff) on all food web components, whereas others (e.g., introduced carnivores) had very different impacts on each component. Partitioning the ecosystem into its components enabled us to identify threats previously overlooked and to reevaluate the importance of threats commonly perceived as major. By incorporating this understanding of system vulnerability with data on changes in the state of each threat (e.g., decreasing domestic pollution and increasing fishing) into a food web model, managers may be better able to estimate and predict cumulative human impacts on ecosystems and to prioritize conservation actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1228-1234
Number of pages7
JournalConservation Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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