Ayla Fox / University of Rhode Island

RI - Scientists Create Models to Simulate Narragansett Bay's Changing Food Web

A team of scientists at the University of Rhode Island is creating a series of computer models of the food web of Narragansett Bay to simulate how the ecosystem will respond to changes in environmental conditions and human uses.

The models will be used to predict how fish abundance will change as water temperatures rise, nutrient inputs vary, and fishing pressure fluctuates.

“A model like this allows you to test things and anticipate changes before they happen in the real ecosystem,” said Maggie Heinichen, a graduate student at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. “You want to be able to prepare for changes that are likely to happen, so the model provides a starting point to ask questions and see what might happen if different actions are taken.”

Heinichen and fellow graduate student Annie Innes-Gold collaborated on the project with Jeremy Collie, professor of oceanography, and Austin Humphries, associate professor of fisheries. They used a wide variety of data collected about the abundance of marine organisms in Narragansett Bay, including life history information on nearly every species of fish that visits the area, and data about environmental conditions.

Their research was published in November in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Additional co-authors on the paper are Corinne Truesdale at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and former URI postdoctoral researcher Kelvin Gorospe.

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Read also Modeling 25 years of food web changes in Narragansett Bay (USA) as a tool for ecosystem-based management, Anne Innes-Gold et al., Nov. 12, 2020