Holistic approaches and models are the necessary base to understand the far-reaching effects of anthropogenic stressors and to design management strategies that integrate these complex processes on an ecosystem level. Using food web and ocean models, the current status of the three Natura 2000 areas will be assessed. Food web models have been proven as an established tool for studying and understanding effects on an ecosystem level. Food web models will be based on the community data collected in WP2 and WP3, as well as other data from existing monitoring programs. The results will provide information about the structure and function of food web in these areas, as well as further development potential, efficiency and stability. In addition, keystone species in the systems will be identified. We expect that the exclusion of the bottom touching fishing gear will change the community structure as well as keystone species in these areas, which in turn will affect the structure and function of the food webs. Using this holistic approach will also allow the direct comparison and identification of differences and similarities with the partner project, which will be carried out in parallel in the Baltic Sea.
Physical modelling (FESOM-C)
To model physical and hydrographic processes the model FESOM-C is used, which is a high-resolution, coastal focused module of the global ocean model FESOM. FESOM-C was developed to map small-scale physical and dynamic processes that are not taken into account in global FESOM. The numerical core of FESOM-C is designed in such a way that it enables the most efficient coupling between global and coastal models. The model has already been tested and verified in a large number of experiments, including in the North Sea. The FESOM-C application in the North Sea includes tidal dynamics, spatial changes and eukaryotic, microbial communities and is therefore an ideal basis for further model approaches to comprehensively represent the current state of Natura 2000 areas and to record changes in the long term. The FESOM-C modelling provides the basis for further investigations of ecological processes and comparing the focus areas in a wider concept of the large scale. In this way, hydrographic connections between different areas can be examined and scenarios can be tested with regard to different stressors (e.g. climate change).