Mortality and predation in ecosystem models: is it important how these are expressed?
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Fulton, EA and Smith, ADM and Johnson, CR, Mortality and predation in ecosystem models: is it important how these are expressed?, Ecological Modelling, 169, (1) pp. 157-178. ISSN 0304-3800 (2003) [Refereed Article]
The effects of the form of the grazing and mortality terms used in plankton models are well known. The same cannot be said for ecosystem models. As ecosystem models become more popular more needs to be known about the effects of model formulation on model behaviour and performance. The impact of the form of the grazing response function and mortality terms used in a biogeochemical ecosystem model are considered here. We show that in the large and inter-linked webs used in ecosystem models, model behaviour is far more sensitive to the form of the grazing term than to that of the mortality terms that close the modelled food web. When using biogeochemical ecosystem models in shallow marine ecosystems, the most dynamic and sophisticated functional responses describing grazing require more parameters and validation than the simpler Holling disk equation, but usually still lead to the same general conclusions about the system state and the effects of changes in forcing functions. Thus, the use of more complex functional responses is not necessarily warranted in many cases. Similarly, the extra effort and data required to explicitly represent the top predators (sharks, mammals and birds) is not necessary if they are not the focus of the study. A quadratic mortality term applied to intermediate predators (such as piscivores) is sufficient to achieve plausible model behaviour. It should be noted, however, that some degree of sophistication is required in the grazing and mortality terms. Use of simple linear functional responses and mortality terms is unsuitable for models used to consider a range of nutrient loading or harvesting scenarios. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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