African Journal of Marine Science

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Comparing trophic flows in the southern Benguela to those in other upwelling ecosystems

A Jarre-teichmann, LJ Shannon, CL Moloney, PA Wickens


A balanced trophic flow model of the southern Benguela ecosystem is presented, averaging the period 1980–1989 and emphasizing upper trophic levels. The model is based largely on studies conducted within
the framework of the Benguela Ecology Programme and updates the results of an expert workshop held in Cape Town in September 1989. Small pelagic fish other than anchovy Engraulis capensis and sardine
Sardinops sagax, mainly round herring Etrumeus whiteheadi and mesopelagic fish, were important components of the food web in the southern Benguela. Severe balancing difficulties were encountered with respect to the semi-pelagic resources (hake Merluccius spp.) and demersal top predators (sharks), indicating the need for further research on the interaction of these groups with their ecosystem. The model is compared to other existing trophic flow models of ecosystems in major upwelling areas, i.e. the northern Humboldt Current (4–14°S), the California Current (28–42°N) and the southern Canary Current (12–25°N), and to two
independently constructed models of the northern Benguela ecosystem. These models are compared using network analysis routines of the ECOPATH software, focusing on the interactions between the five dominant
fish species (anchovy, sardine, horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus capensis, chub mackerel Scomber japonicus and hake) that support important fisheries in all systems. The upwelling systems rank by size
rather than species dominance. The ratio of catches and primary production differs between systems, partly because of differences in fishing regimes. Predation on the five dominant fish groups by other fish in the system was the most important cause of fish mortality in all models. Fishery catches are generally a larger cause of mortality for these groups than predation by mammals. The ecological cost of fishing appears to be comparatively low in the southern Benguela, because catches are low compared with the primary production, but also because the fishery is relatively low in the foodweb. However, in view of the very tight foodweb demonstrated in the model, it is likely that an increase in fishing pressure would cause severe trade-offs with respect to other components of the southern Benguela ecosystem.

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