Re-evaluating Primary Biotic Resource Use for Marine Biomass Production: A New Calculation Framework

Anh D. Luong, Thomas Schaubroeck, Jo Dewulf, Frederik De Laender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The environmental impacts of biomass harvesting can be quantified through the amount of net primary production required to produce one unit of harvested biomass (SPPR-specific primary production required). This paper presents a new calculation framework that explicitly takes into account full food web complexity and shows that the resulting SPPR for toothed whales in the Icelandic marine ecosystem is 2.8 times higher than the existing approach based on food web simplification. In addition, we show that our new framework can be coupled to food web modeling to examine how uncertainty on ecological data and processes can be accounted for while estimating SPPR. This approach reveals that an increase in the degree of heterotrophy by flagellates from 0% to 100% results in a two-fold increase in SPPR estimates in the Barents Sea. It also shows that the estimated SPPR is between 3.9 (herring) and 5.0 (capelin) times higher than that estimated when adopting food chain theory. SPPR resulting from our new approach is only valid for the given time period for which the food web is modeled and cannot be used to infer changes in SPPR when the food web is altered by changes in human exploitation or environmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11586-11593
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2015


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