The stability of trophic mass balance models of marine ecosystems: a comparative analysis

Marcello Vasconcellos, Katherine Sloman, Steven Mackinson, Daniel Pauly

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144 Citations (Scopus)


Dynamic simulations of 18 ecopath mass-balance marine trophic models are used to explore the stability of systems when briefly impacted by a fishery on the key `wasp–waist' populations occurring at intermediate trophic levels. The results are related to different ecosystem goal functions previously identified as representative of three attributes of ecosystems development: community complexity, homeostasis and energetics. System recovery time, the time required for all functional groups to returns to baseline level, and here used as a measure of model stability, was inversely correlated to Finn's Cycling Index, i.e. to the fraction of ecosystem throughput that is recycled, and to the mean length of trophic pathways in the systems. Systems with higher capacity to recycle detritus are systems with a higher ability to recover from perturbations. The results are in agreement with the E.P. Odum's theory of ecosystem development, where recycling is interpreted as a chief positive feedback mechanism that contributes to stability in the mature systems by preventing overshoots and destructive oscillations due to external impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-134
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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