University Of Tasmania

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Is fisheries production within Large Marine Ecosystems determined by bottom-up or top-down forcing?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 14:42 authored by Mcowen, CJ, Cheung, WWL, Rykaczewski, RR, Reginald WatsonReginald Watson, Wood, LJ
Understanding the mechanisms driving fisheries production is essential if we are to accurately predict changes under climate change and exploit fish stocks in a sustainable manner. Traditionally, studies have sought to distinguish between the two most prominent drivers, ‘bottom-up’ (resource driven) and ‘top-down’ (consumer driven); however, this dichotomy is increasingly proving to be artificial as the relative importance of each mechanism has been shown to vary through space and time. Nevertheless, the reason why one predominates over another within a region remains largely unknown. To address this gap in understanding, we identified the dominant driver of commercial landings within 47 ecosystems, encompassing a wide range of biogeochemical conditions and fishing practices to elucidate general patterns. We show that bottom-up and top-down effects vary consistently with past fishing pressure and oceanographic conditions; bottom-up control predominates within productive, overfished regions and top-down in relatively unproductive and under-exploited areas. We attribute these findings to differences in the species composition and oceanographic properties of regions, together with variation in fishing practices and (indicative) management effectiveness. Collectively, our analyses suggest that despite the complexity of ecological systems, it is possible to elucidate a number of generalities. Such knowledge could be used to increase the parsimony of ecosystem models and to move a step forward in predicting how the global ocean, particularly fisheries productivity, will respond to climate change.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Fish and Fisheries










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Social impacts of climate change and variability