Modelling food webs from plankton to top predators

Employing a novel combination of models, this study provides an end-to-end approach for representing food web structures

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 42,945 species occurrences
Common Pandora (Pagellus erythrinus)

Common Pandora (Pagellus erythrinus), one of the top predators in the Gulf. This specimen was observed by whodden near the coast of Tenerife. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Recognized as one of the most productive areas in Mediterranean, The Gulf of Gabes is under multiple anthropogenic threats, such as overfishing and pollution.

Seeking to characterize the structure of the food web in the Gulf and model the main processes that influence species’ life cycles, this study used a combination of an individual-based model representing high trophic level organisms informed by GBIF-mediated occurrences and hydrodynamic/biochemical model representing low trophic level organisms.

The two models were linked through trophic interactions and together provide a realistic representation of the food web from smallest plankton to top predators. Comparing model simulated predator diets with stomach contents data, showed an acceptable level of similarity. The modelled size at catch also showed a close consistence when confronted with empirical data.

Overall, the model provides a foundation for future studies into the effects of anthropogenic change threatening the Gulf ecosystem.

Halouani G, Ben Rais Lasram F, Shin Y-J, Velez L, Verley P, Hattab T, Oliveros-Ramos R, Diaz F, Ménard F, Baklouti M, Guyennon A, Romdhane MS and Le Loc'h F (2016) Modelling food web structure using an end-to-end approach in the coastal ecosystem of the Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia). Ecological Modelling. Elsevier BV 339: 45–57. Available at: