Food web assessments in the Baltic Sea: Models bridging the gap between indicators and policy needs

Samuli Korpinen, Laura Uusitalo, Marie C. Nordström, Jan Dierking, Maciej T. Tomczak, Jannica Haldin, Silvia Opitz, Erik Bonsdorff, Stefan Neuenfeldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Ecosystem-based management requires understanding of food webs. Consequently, assessment of food web status is mandatory according to the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for EU Member States. However, how to best monitor and assess food webs in practise has proven a challenging question. Here, we review and assess the current status of food web indicators and food web models, and discuss whether the models can help addressing current shortcomings of indicator-based food web assessments, using the Baltic Sea as an example region. We show that although the MSFD food web assessment was designed to use food web indicators alone, they are currently poorly fit for the purpose, because they lack interconnectivity of trophic guilds. We then argue that the multiple food web models published for this region have a high potential to provide additional coherence to the definition of good environmental status, the evaluation of uncertainties, and estimates for unsampled indicator values, but we also identify current limitations that stand in the way of more formal implementation of this approach. We close with a discussion of which current models have the best capacity for this purpose in the Baltic Sea, and of the way forward towards the combination of measurable indicators and modelling approaches in food web assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687–1697
JournalAMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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