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Ambio. Nov 2011; 40(7): 786–797.
Published online Jun 24, 2011. doi:  10.1007/s13280-011-0158-0
PMCID: PMC3357745
Effects of Altered Offshore Food Webs on Coastal Ecosystems Emphasize the Need for Cross-Ecosystem Management
Britas Klemens Eriksson,corresponding author1 Katrin Sieben,1 Johan Eklöf,2 Lars Ljunggren,3 Jens Olsson,3 Michele Casini,4 and Ulf Bergström3
1Department of Marine Benthic Ecology & Evolution, Centre for Ecological & Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands
2Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
3Institute of Coastal Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skolgatan 6, 74242 Öregrund, Sweden
4Institute for Marine Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 4, 45321 Lysekil, Sweden
Britas Klemens Eriksson, b.d.h.k.eriksson/at/rug.nl.
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Received December 21, 2010; Revised April 28, 2011; Accepted May 13, 2011.
Abstract
By mainly targeting larger predatory fish, commercial fisheries have indirectly promoted rapid increases in densities of their prey; smaller predatory fish like sprat, stickleback and gobies. This process, known as mesopredator release, has effectively transformed many marine offshore basins into mesopredator-dominated ecosystems. In this article, we discuss recent indications of trophic cascades on the Atlantic and Baltic coasts of Sweden, where increased abundances of mesopredatory fish are linked to increased nearshore production and biomass of ephemeral algae. Based on synthesis of monitoring data, we suggest that offshore exploitation of larger predatory fish has contributed to the increase in mesopredator fish also along the coasts, with indirect negative effects on important benthic habitats and coastal water quality. The results emphasize the need to rebuild offshore and coastal populations of larger predatory fish to levels where they regain their control over lower trophic levels and important links between offshore and coastal systems are restored.
Keywords: Mesopredator release, Human transformation, Commercial fisheries, Cod, Baltic Sea, Swedish coast
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