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Modeling Prey Isocapes in the North Atlantic for Advancement in Predator Ecology

Project description

Biochemical tracers at the base of the Atlantic food web

Human activity is posing major problems for the oceans and affecting marine ecosystem processes. To address this, it is necessary to monitor oceans at a spatio-temporal level. The EU-funded ISOMOD project will map the biogeochemical tracers at the base of the food web to establish the effects of anthropological stressors. The stable isotope composition data will be observed and elaborated in an innovative spatial statistic approach to generate isoscapes and develop a full picture of the investigated area in terms of three basic measures of marine ecosystem processes – productivity, food web structure and animal migration routes. The findings will help improve the study of dietary changes in Atlantic puffin and the prediction of mackerel distribution.


The immensity of the oceans makes it difficult to monitor them at a spatio-temporal scale that is relevant for resolving ecological processes and responses to decades of pressure from multiple anthropological stressors. With IsoMod, I aim to map the biogeochemical tracers (stable isotope (SI) composition) at the base of the food web to inform three key measures of marine ecosystem processes that might be affected by these stressors: productivity, food web structure and animal migration pathways. The isoscapes will be developed at the scale of the North Atlantic Ocean and will be based on Calanus spp. carbon and nitrogen SI values, δ13C and δ15N. Lipid rich zooplankton organisms such as C. finmarchicus fuel a large part of the higher trophic level in the North Atlantic, including many species of fish, birds and mammals. I will use a recently developed spatial statistic approach where high resolution observational data (e.g. satellite data) are applied as predictors of SI variability, and apply these models to produce isoscapes with a full coverage of the study area. The application of these isoscapes will be showcased in two case studies. The first will test the role of changes in Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) winter diet in key life-history parameters (e.g. body condition, survival rate). Specifically, the isoscapes will be used to provide the trophic baseline needed to investigate changes in puffin trophic position associated with changes in diet. The second case study will use prey SI to improve forecast of Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) summer distribution. Variation in SI values can be linked to variation in secondary productivity and this will be used to identify best foraging conditions for mackerel ahead of their migration to the summer feeding grounds. This information will be investigated as a driver of mackerel summer distribution and their recent shift in distribution.



Net EU contribution
€ 214 158,72
Hansine hansens veg 14
9019 Tromso

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Norge Nord-Norge Troms og Finnmark
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00