More than Anecdotes: Fishers’ Ecological Knowledge Can Fill Gaps for Ecosystem Modeling
Thirty years of progress using the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) approach in different fields such as ecosystem impacts of fishing and climate change, emergent ecosystem dynamics, ecosystem-based management, and marine conservation and spatial planning were showcased November 2014 at the conference “Ecopath 30 years-modelling dynamic ecosystems: beyond boundaries with EwE”. Exciting new developments include temporal-spatial and end-to-end modelling, as well as novel applications to environmental impact analyses, in both aquatic and terrestrial domains. A wide range of plug-ins have been added to extend the diagnostic capabilities of EwE, and the scientific community is applying EwE to a diversified range of topics besides fishing impact assessments, such as the development of scientific advice for management, the analysis of conservation issues, and the evaluation of cumulative impacts of environmental and human activities in marine food webs (including habitat modification and the invasion of alien species). Especially promising is the new potential to include the EwE model in integrated assessments with other models such as those related to climate change research. However, there are still many challenges, including the communication of scientific results in management procedures. In addition, other important scientific issues are how to improve model result validation and perform model quality control. During the conference, the Ecopath International Research and Development Consortium was presented as a way for the EwE user community to become involved in the long-term sustainability of the EwE approach. Overall, exciting times are facing the ecosystem modelling scientific community, and as illustrated by the conference: synergistic cooperation is the future path for the EwE approach.