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Final Report Summary - GOC-INTEGRATED (Integrated statistical approach to the Gulf of Cádiz marine system)

Two were the main objectives of this project: (1) to conduct an integrated analysis of the Gulf of Cadiz (GoC) and (2) to strengthen the network of collaborations between the host institution (Instituto Español de Oceanografía, IEO) and other European research centres.
(1) The first objective turned out to be more complicated than anticipated in terms of getting access to a ready-to-use, comprehensive database. Some exploratory analyses were carried out with the available data (demersal, estuarine, climate) and a data generation plan was put in place to acquire expertise on zooplankton identification and obtain this information from archived samples. At the same time, the GoC ecosystem has been included in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) strategy to develop integrated ecosystem assessments (IEA), in particular as part of the WGEAWESS1 working group.
The centre that the IEO has in Cadiz is relatively new, as it only became an independent centre in December 2008 (officially inaugurated in Dec 2012). Its activity in the region, however, dates back to 1992 when the first bottom trawl survey (ARSA) was carried out in the area. The assessment of demersal resources was its main research activity until the early 2000s, when a number of multidisciplinary cruises started to collect information on other components of the ecosystem (eg. plankton). The plankton samples could not be analysed, due to lack of expertise, but were archived.
The first action of this project was to retrieve that information before it got lost. In the first place we got some samples analyzed by an external taxonomist and later on, after negotiating with the IEO direction, we managed to allocate some time of one of our technical staff to work on the samples. She followed a training course on zooplankton taxonomy and is now in charge of analysing the new samples and at the same time extract the information from the archived ones (> 1000). Furthermore, she intends to do a PhD as there is virtually no information on the GoC plankton dynamics. Through this new expertise we expect to be able to incorporate the zooplankton component in the IEA and process understanding. With the data the institute owns and were readily available we carried out a classical IEA analysis (REGNS approach). Figure 1a shows the development of the GoC demersal species grouped by trophic levels, some environmental variables and fishing effort.
The second strategic action was to incorporate the Guadalquivir estuary dataset collected by CSIC2. We first got a partial dataset for four commercial species that use the estuary as nursery ground. Of those, anchovy were used in a stock-recruitment (SR) model that relates the recruits observed in the estuary to the landings as proxy for its biomass in the gulf. The results indicate the role of the estuary in the GoC dynamics (Figure 1b). Further research, including environmental variables and other estuarine species will investigate which factors modulate this relationship.
All in all, although the results are still preliminary, through this Marie Curie action we have laid down the foundations to develop an integrated ecosystem assessment (and eventually integrated advice) at regional scale, which will include the Guadalquivir estuary as key component. As we generate, track down and get access to more data, we will be able to include them in the IEA and also contribute to the process understanding by combining information from different datasets that so far have been mostly studied in isolation. This has important implications for the management of the system as the integrated assessment (and advice) has been identified by ICES as central to its future strategy. Consequently, its implementation in the area has wide societal implications.

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