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Ecosystem modelling of the Eastern Corsican Coast (ECC): Case study of one of the least trawled shelves of the Mediterranean Sea

Abstract : The Eastern Corsican Coast (ECC) is distinguished by its shallow sandy shelf, extensive Posidonia seagrass meadows, and the relatively limited exploitation of fish in this region. To understand ECC trophic functioning and the effects of fishing in this region of the Mediterranean Sea, we applied the Ecopath and EcoTroph approaches. Our model encompassed 5 groups of primary producers and detritus, 14 invertebrate groups, two groups of Chondrichthyes, 16 teleost groups, one seabird group, and one group of cetaceans. The ECC ecosystem was structured into five trophic levels, regulated top-down by Sphyraenidae, Epinephelus marginatus, and Dentex dentex. The ecosystem displayed a high degree of benthic-pelagic coupling, confirmed by keystone groups/species located at intermediate trophic levels (planktivorous teleosts, benthic cephalopods, shrimps, zooplankton). The ECC demonstrated the lowest exploitation rate (F/Z) of all exploited Mediterranean ecosystems, with trawling representing 55% of catches, followed by the lobster net (27%) and fish net (18%) fisheries. Catches often included untargeted groups-often discarded dead-in particular sharks and rays, and several protected species. Moreover, Palinurus elephas, Scorpaena scrofa, and Dentex dentex had elevated F/Z values, highlighting their vulnerabilities to fishing. Although the fishing simulations suggested that the ECC could support a greater exploitation, they also revealed that these fisheries have a marked impact on upper trophic levels. Our study draws attention to the critical habitat the ECC provides for Chondrichthyes, evidenced by the significant biomass for these taxa and the low fishing pressure relative to other exploited Mediterranean systems. This first modelling of the ECC is an initial step towards modelling all Corsican marine ecosystems to serve as a guide for preserving these ecosystems through appropriate management measures.
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Submitted on : Sunday, September 18, 2022 - 7:28:52 AM
Last modification on : Monday, September 19, 2022 - 3:23:58 AM

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L. Vanalderweireldt, C. Albouy, F. Le Loc'H, R. Millot, C. Blestel, et al.. Ecosystem modelling of the Eastern Corsican Coast (ECC): Case study of one of the least trawled shelves of the Mediterranean Sea. Journal of Marine Systems, 2022, 235, ⟨10.1016/j.jmarsys.2022.103798⟩. ⟨insu-03779800⟩

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