Temporal variability of primary production explains marine ecosystem structure and function

Schlenger, AJ, Libralato S, Ballance LT.  2019.  Temporal variability of primary production explains marine ecosystem structure and function. Ecosystems. 22:331-345.

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aggregation, biodiversity, biomass, biosphere, ecology, ecopath, Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE), ecosim, ecosystem modeling, ecosystems, empirical relationships, energetics, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, maturity, model, net, network analysis, Primary Production


Understanding drivers of ecosystem structure and function is a pervasive goal in academic and applied research. We used 24 synthetic ecosystem-level indices derived from trophic models, and independently derived data for Net Primary Productivity, to investigate drivers of ecosystem structure and function for 43 marine ecosystems distributed in all oceans of the world and including coastal, estuaries, mid-ocean islands, open-ocean, coral reef, continental shelf, and upwelling ecosystems. Of these indices, ecosystem Biomass, Primary Production, Respiration, the ratio of Biomass to Total System Throughput (sum of total energy flow into and out of an ecosystem as well as between ecosystem components), the ratio of Production to Biomass, Residence Time (mean time that a unit of energy remains in the ecosystem), Average Trophic Level, and Relative Ascendency (index of organization and complexity of a food web) displayed relationships with measures of Net Primary Productivity (NPP). Across all ecosystems, relationships were stronger with seasonal and interannual variability of NPP as compared to mean NPP. Both measures of temporal variability were combined into multivariate predictive relationships for each ecosystem index, with r(2) values ranging from 0.14 to 0.49 and Akaike's information criteria values from -8.44 to 3.26. Our results indicate that despite large geographic and environmental differences, temporal variability of NPP is strongly linked to the structure and function of marine ecosystems.