Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.


All of the publications created as part of the VECTORS project are listed below (latest first).
Please use the search box below to find a publication by title, author(s), year or keyword; the most relevant results will be displayed at the top of the page.

  • Denny, M. and L. Benedetti-Cecchi. (2012). Scaling up in ecology: mechanistic approaches. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 43, 1-22.
    View abstract Ecologists have long grappled with the problem of scaling up from tractable, small-scale observations and experiments to the prediction of large-scale patterns. Although there are multiple approaches to this formidable task, there is a common underpinning in the formulation, testing, and use of mechanistic response functions to describe how phenomena interact across scales.Here, we review the principles of response functions to illustrate how they provide a means to guide research, extrapolate beyond measured data, and simplify our conceptual grasp of reality. We illustrate these principles with examples of mechanistic approaches ranging from explorations of the ecological niche, random walks, and macrophysiology to theories dealing with scale transition, self-organization, and the prediction of extremes.
  • Domenici, P., N.A. Herbert, C. Le François, J.F. Steffensen and D.J. McKenzie. (2012). The effect of hypoxia on fish swimming performance and behaviour. In: A. P. Palstra and J. V. Planas, editors. Swimming physiology of fish. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p. 129-160.
    View abstract Oxygen depletion, hypoxia, can be a common stressor in aquatic habitats, including aquaculture. Hypoxia limits aerobic swimming performance in fish, by limiting their aerobic metabolic scope. Hypoxia also elicits changes in spontaneous swimming activity, typically causing a decrease in swimming speed in sedentary species and an increase in active species. However, fish do have the capacity to avoid hypoxia and actively choose well-oxygenated areas. Hypoxia causes differences in fish behaviour in schools, it may reduce school density and size and influence activities such as shuffling within schools. Hypoxia also influences predator-prey interactions, in particular by reducing fast-start performance. Thus, through effects on swimming, hypoxia can have profound effects on species distributions in the field. In aquaculture, effects of hypoxia may be particularly significant in sea cages. It is therefore important to understand the nature and thresholds of effects of hypoxia on swimming activity to extrapolate to potential impacts on fish in aquaculture.
  • David, M., M. Perkovic, V. Suban and S. Gollasch. (2012). A generic ballast water discharge assessment model as a decision supporting tool in ballast water management. Decision Support Systems 53(1), 175-185. doi:10.1016/j.dss.2012.01.002
    View abstract One of the critical issues in species invasion ecology is the need to understand and evaluate the dimensions and processes of aquatic organisms transfer with vessels ballast water. The assessment of the quantity of ballast water discharged as the medium of transfer is one of the basic elements of the decision making process in ballast water risk assessment and management. The possibility to assess this in advance of the vessel's arrival to a port enhances the management process and gives port authorities a decision supporting tool to respond in time with adequate measures. A new generic ballast water discharge assessment model has been prepared. The model is based on vessel cargo operation and vessel dimensions. The model was tested on real shipping traffic and ballast water discharge data for the Port of Koper, Slovenia. The results show high confidence in predicting whether a vessel will discharge ballast water, as well in assessing the quantity of ballast water (to be) discharged.
  • De Grave, S., R. Einav and B.S. Galil. (2012). Recent records of the Indo-Pacific species, Lucifer hanseni Nobili, 1905 (Crustacea; Decapoda; Luciferidae) from the Mediterranean coast of Israel. BioInvasions Records 1(2), 105-108.
    View abstract Specimens of Lucifer hanseni Nobili, 1905 were obtained along the Mediterranean coast of Israel between 2008-2011. A single specimen collected in 1924 from Port Said harbour, Egypt, was hitherto the only record of the species in the Mediterranean Sea. The cluster of specimens documented herein suggests the species has recently established a population along the southern Levantine coast.
  • Coppa, S., G.A. De Lucia, G. Massaro and P. Magni. (2012). Density and distribution of Patella ferruginea in a Marine Protected Area (western Sardinia, Italy): Constraint analysis for population conservation. Mediterranean Marine Science 13(1), 108-117.
    View abstract The endemic limpet Patella ferruginea is the most endangered invertebrate in the Mediterranean Sea. Our study examined a population of P. ferruginea in the Marine Protected Area of "Penisola del Sinis - Isola di Mal di Ventre" (western Sardinia, Italy). During the summer 2009, we carried out a systematic census of P. ferruginea along a 8114 m georeferenced perimeter of coast in the "no take-no entry area" to assess its density, spatial distribution, and morphometric characteristics. Our aim was to provide a detailed map of the distribution of P. ferruginea and to investigate the effects of accessibility, wave exposure and slope of the coast on its occurrence. Patella ferruginea showed the lowest mean density ever reported (0.02 ind/m) and a unimodal population structure characterised by fewer females and juveniles. Accessibility had a major negative effect on the occurrence of P. ferruginea. Exposure was also an important factor in influencing its density, size composition and specimen position within the mesolittoral, while the slope had little influence. Morphometric analysis showed the dominance of the Rouxi form, while the Lamarcki form was confined to exposed sites. Our results demonstrate a highly endangered population of P. ferruginea and suggest that human pressure represents the main risk factor.
  • Crocetta, F. and B.S. Galil. (2012). The invasive spotted sea hare Aplysia dactylomela (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Aplysiidae) - new records and spread pattern in the Mediterranean. Vie et Milieu - Life and Environment 62(1), 43-46.
    View abstract Recent and overlooked unpublished records (2005-2011) of the invasive alien sea hare Aplysia dactylomela from Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Malta and Italy are presented. We confirm the presence of established populations in Israel, Malta and the Gulf of Taranto (Italy, Ionian Sea), where hitherto the species was known from single records. In addition, new records from Cosenza and Vibo Valentia provinces point to a spread northwards along the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy. Finally, the possible pathway of introduction to the Mediterranean is discussed taking account of a previously unreported record off Israel.
  • Cucco, A., A. Ribotti, A. Olita, L. Fazioli, B. Sorgente, M. Sinerchia, A. Satta, A. Perilli, M. Borghini, K. Schroeder and R. Sorgente. (2012). Support to oil spill emergencies in the Bonifacio Strait, western Mediterranean. Ocean Sci. 8(4), 443-454. doi:10.5194/os-8-443-2012
    View abstract An innovative forecasting system of the coastal marine circulation has been implemented in the Bonifacio Strait area, between Corsica and Sardinia, using a numerical approach to facilitate the rapid planning and coordination of remedial actions for oil spill emergencies at sea by local authorities. Downscaling and nesting techniques from regional to coastal scale and a 3-D hydrodynamic numerical model, coupled with a wind wave model, are the core of the integrated Bonifacio Strait system. Such a system is capable of predicting operationally the dispersion of hydrocarbon spills in the area, both in forward and backward mode, through an easy-to-use graphical user interface. A set of applications are described and discussed including both operational applications aimed at providing rapid responses to local oil spill emergences and managing applications aimed at mitigating the risk of oil spill impacts on the coast.
  • Cucco, A., M. Sinerchia, C. Le François, P. Magni, M. Ghezzo, G. Umgiesser, A. Perilli and P. Domenici. (2012). A metabolic scope based model of fish response to environmental changes. Ecological Modelling 237-238, 132-141.
    View abstract Eco-physiology studies, performed in laboratory under controlled conditions, provide an essential tool for quantifying the impact of environmental changes on the metabolism and behaviour of individual fish. One way of quantifying such impact is by measuring the Metabolic Scope (MS) of a fish and how it is affected by environmental factors. Laboratory experiments were performed to calculate the empirical mathematical equations describing the variation of the MS of flathead grey mullet, Mugil cephalus, under different environmental conditions (water temperature and water oxygen concentration). The equation obtained was introduced into a coupled hydrodynamic-ecological numerical model able to reproduce the variability of the water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and of the main dissolved nutrients and chlorophyll-a. The coupled empirical-numerical model was used to reproduce the temporal and spatial variation in MS of a M. cephalus fish population in the Oristano gulf and the Cabras lagoon system (Italy), a typical Mediterranean shallow water environment. Results from numerical simulations show that during the spring and the beginning of summer period, Cabras lagoon provides a higher MS for M. cephalus than the Oristano gulf. During the rest of the year, apart from some transitional phases, the gulf provides more suitable conditions (higher MS) for M. cephalus. The obtained results are in general accordance with fisheries data, showing that M. cephalus catches are highest during the end-July to August period, as they migrate out of the lagoon. This approach, combined with observation on the temporal and spatial distribution of fishes, can allow predictions of fish productivity in non-limiting conditions.
  • David, M. and S. Gollasch. (2012). Ballast water treatment systems - a summary. In: B. Werschkun, T. Höfer and M. Greiner, editors. Emerging risks from ballast water treatment. Berlin, Germany: BfR Wissenschaft. p. 23-30.
    View abstract Ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) developed to meet the standards set forth in the Ballast Water Management Convention adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) were summarized here considering existing and developing BWTS. The systems need to be applied in very different settings onboard (e.g. different vessel types, flow rates and waters to be treated) so that fundamentally different BWTS are considered. The most common treatment technologies and basic technical requirements are outlined, also documenting the availability of certified BWTS.
  • Como, S., P. Magni, G. Ven Der Velde, F.S. Blok and M.F.M. Ven De Steeg. (2012). Spatial variations in δ13C and δ15N values of primary consumers in a coastal lagoon. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 115, 300-308.
    View abstract The analysis of the contribution of a food source to a consumer's diet or the trophic position of a consumer is highly sensitive to the variability of the isotopic values used as input data. However, little is known in coastal lagoons about the spatial variations in the isotopic values of primary consumers considered 'end members' in the isotope mixing models for quantifying the diet of secondary consumers or as a baseline for estimating the trophic position of consumers higher up in the food web. We studied the spatial variations in the δ13C and δ15N values of primary consumers and sedimentary organic matter (SOM) within a selected area of the Cabras lagoon (Sardinia, Italy). Our aim was to assess how much of the spatial variation in isotopic values of primary consumers was due to the spatial variability between sites and how much was due to differences in short distances from the shore. Samples were collected at four stations (50-100 m apart) selected randomly at two sites (1.5-2 km apart) chosen randomly at two distances from the shore (i.e. in proximity of the shore - Nearshore - and about 200 m away from the shore e Offshore). The sampling was repeated in March, May and August 2006 using new sites at the two chosen distances from the shore on each date. The isotopic values of size-fractionated seston and macrophytes were also analyzed as a complementary characterization of the study area. While δ15N did not show any spatial variations, the δ13C values of deposit feeders, Alitta Neanthes) succinea, Lekanesphaera hookeri, Hydrobia acuta and Gammarus aequicauda, were more depleted Offshore than Nearshore. For these species, there were significant effects of distance or distance dates in the mean d13C values, irrespective of the intrinsic variation between sites. SOM showed similar spatial variations in δ13C values, with Nearshore-Offshore differences up to 6‰. This indicates that the spatial isotopic changes are transferred from the food sources to the deposit feeders studied. In contrast, δ13C and δ15N values of suspension feeders, Ficopomatus enigmaticus and Amphibalanus amphitrite, did not show major variations, either between sites, or between Nearshore and Offshore. These different patterns between deposit feeders and suspension feeders are probably due to a weaker trophic link of the latter with SOM. We suggest that the Nearshore-Offshore gradient might be an important source of isotopic variation that needs to be considered in future web studies in coastal lagoons.
  • Eero, M. (2012). Reconstructing the population dynamics of sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus) in the Baltic Sea in the 20th century. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil 69(6), 1010-1018. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fss051
    View abstract Long time-series of population dynamics are increasingly needed in order to understand human impacts on marine ecosystems and support their sustainable management. In this study, the estimates of sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus) biomass in the Baltic Sea were extended back from the beginning of ICES stock assessments in 1974 to the early 1900s. The analyses identified peaks in sprat spawner biomass in the beginning of the 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s at 900 kt. Only a half of that biomass was estimated for the late 1930s, for the period from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, and for the mid-1960s. For the 1900s, fisheries landings suggest a relatively high biomass, similar to the early 1930s. The exploitation rate of sprat was low until the development of pelagic fisheries in the 1960s. Spatially resolved analyses from the 1960s onwards demonstrate changes in the distribution of sprat biomass over time. The average body weight of sprat by age in the 1950s to 1970s was higher than at present, but lower than during the 1980s to 1990s. The results of this study facilitate new analyses of the effects of climate, predation, and anthropogenic drivers on sprat, and contribute to setting long-term management strategies for the Baltic Sea.
  • Hinrichsen, H.-H., K. Hüssy and B. Huwer. (2012). Spatio-temporal variability in western Baltic cod early life stage survival mediated by egg buoyancy, hydrography and hydrodynamics. ICES Journal of Marine Science 69(10), 1744-1752. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fss137
    View abstract To disentangle the effects of different drivers on recruitment variability of marine fish, a spatially and temporally explicit understanding of both the spawning stock size and the early life stage dynamics is required. The objectives of this study are to assess the transport of western Baltic cod early life stages as well as the variability in environmentally-mediated survival along drift routes in relation to both spatial (within and between different spawning areas) and temporal (interannual and seasonal) dynamics. A spatially and temporally highly-resolved biophysical model of the Baltic Sea was used to describe mortalities and survival success of eggs and yolk-sac larvae - represented by individual, virtual drifters - as predicted proportions of drifters that either died due to bottom contact or lethal temperatures, or that survived up to the end of the yolk-sac larval stage. The environmental conditions allowing survival of cod and yolksac larvae indicate that favourable conditions predominately occurred during the late spawning season, while minimum survival rates could be expected from January to March. The spatial analysis of different spawning areas revealed highest survival chances in the Kattegat, intermediate survival in the Great Belt, and only low survival in the Sound, Kiel Bay and Mecklenburg Bay.
  • Hüssy, K., H.-H. Hinrichsen and B. Huwer. (2012). Hydrographic influence on the spawning habitat suitability of western Baltic cod (Gadus morhua). ICES Journal of Marine Science 69(10), 1736-1743. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fss136
    View abstract Recruitment variability of marine fish is influenced by the reproductive potential of the stock (i.e. stock characteristics and abundance) and the survival of early life stages, mediated by environmental conditions of both a physical (water temperature, salinity and oxygen conditions, ocean currents) and a biological nature (i.e. food, predators). The objective of this study is to assess the importance of variability in environmental conditions within different western Baltic cod spawning grounds for egg survival. Habitat identification was based on environmental threshold levels for egg survival and development and ambient hydrographical conditions at different times during the spawning season. The long-term resolution of environmental conditions allowing survival of western Baltic cod eggs indicates that favourable conditions predominantly occurred during the late spawning season in April/May, while minimum survival rates could be expected from January to March. Unsuitable time periods and habitats exhibiting the highest mortality rates are exclusively characterized by ambient water temperatures below the critical survival threshold. Despite the strong influence of water temperature on habitat suitability, the impact of habitat suitability on recruitment was not clearly defined, suggesting that other mechanisms regulate year class strength.
  • Eero, M., M. Lindegren and F.W. Köster. (2012). The state and relative importance of drivers of fish population dynamics: An indicator-based approach. Ecological Indicators 15, 248-252.
    View abstract In a changing environment, the status of individual fish populations and consequently the fishing possibilities can change rapidly, not always for reasons directly related to fisheries. In order to take the ecosystem context into account in the management process and achieve consensus concerning fishing possibilities among stakeholders, it is important that the status of various drivers influencing fish stocks, and their relative impacts are broadly understood. In this paper, we demonstrate how indicators and their aggregation methodologies could assist to achieve this, using the central Baltic Sea as an example. The developed indicator framework provides a quick and visually effective way to track changes in the performance of drivers of fish stock dynamics and communicate the related consequences to a wider audience.
  • Eero, M., M. Vinther, H. Haslob, B. Huwer, M. Casini, M. Storr-Paulsen and F.W. Köster. (2012). Spatial management of marine resources can enhance the recovery of predators and avoid local depletion of forage fish. Conservation Letters 5(6), 486-492. doi:10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00266.x
    View abstract The eastern Baltic cod stock has recently started to recover, after two decades of severe depletion, however with unexpected side effects. The stock has not re-occupied its former wide distribution range, but remains concentrated in a limited area in the southern Baltic Sea. The biomass of forage fish, i.e., sprat and herring, is historic low in this area, which in combination with increasing cod stock results in locally high predation mortality of forage fish and cannibalism of cod. In line with low prey availability, body weight and nutritional condition of cod drastically declined. In the southern Baltic Sea, cod competes with pelagic fisheries for the limited resources of sprat and herring, while the largest biomass of these species is currently found outside the distribution range of cod. Accounting for spatial overlap between species is crucial in developing ecosystem based fisheries management to enhance the recovery of predator stocks.
  • Fauser, P., H. Sanderson, R.V. Hedegaard, J.J. Sloth, M.M. Larsen, T. Krongaard, R. Bossi and J.B. Larsen. (2012). Occurrence and sorption properties of arsenicals in marine sediments. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 185(6), 4679-4691. doi:10.1007/s10661-012-2896-2
    View abstract The content of total arsenic, the inorganic forms: arsenite (As(III)) and arsenate (As(V)), the methylated forms: monomethylarsonic acid and dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), trimethylarsenic oxide, tetramethylarsenonium ion and arsenobetaine was measured in 95 sediment samples and 11 pore water samples from the Baltic Sea near the island of Bornholm at depths of up to 100 m. As(III+V) and DMA were detected in the sediment and As(III+V) was detected in the sediment pore water. Average total As concentration of 10.6±7.4 mg/kg dry matter (DM) in the sediment corresponds to previously reported values in the Baltic Sea and other parts of theworld. Existing data for on-site measurements of sorption coefficients (Kd) of arsenicals in marine and freshwater sediments show large variability from <1 to >1,000 L/kg. In this work, calculated sorption coefficients (Kd and Koc) for As(III+V) showed significant correlation with depth, dissolved oxygen (DO), salinity and sediment classification; for depths <70 m, salinity <11 %, DO >9 mg/L and sand/silt/clay sediments the Kd was 118±76 L/kg DM and for depths >70 m, salinity >11 %, DO<9 mg/L and muddy sediments the Kd was 513±233 L/kg DM. The authors recommend using the found Kd value for arsenic in marine sediments when conditions are similar to the Baltic Sea. At locations with significant anthropogenic point sources or where the local geology contains volcanic rock and sulphide mineral deposits, there may be significantly elevated arsenic concentrations, and it is recommended to determine on-site Kd values.
  • Pasternak, G., R. Ziv, G. Eyal, S. Shefer, H.K. Mienis, O. Rittner and B.S. Galil. (2011). On the population of Chromodoris annulata Eliot, 1904 (Mollusca: Opistobranchia: Chromodorididae) off the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Aquatic Invasions 6(S1), 91-93.
    View abstract The Indian Ocean opisthobranch Chromodoris annulata was first noted off the Mediterranean coast of Israel in October 2009. Early occasional sightings of single specimens were followed by increasingly frequent reports of clusters of specimens. Our findings point to the presence of an established population along the Mediterranean coast of Israel.
  • Ojaveer, H. and M. Eero. (2011). Methodological challenges in assessing the environmental status of a marine ecosystem: case study of the Baltic Sea. Plos One 6(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019231
    View abstract Assessments of the environmental status of marine ecosystems are increasingly needed to inform management decisions and regulate human pressures to meet the objectives of environmental policies. This paper addresses some generic methodological challenges and related uncertainties involved in marine ecosystem assessment, using the central Baltic Sea as a case study. The objectives of good environmental status of the Baltic Sea are largely focusing on biodiversity, eutrophication and hazardous substances. In this paper, we conduct comparative evaluations of the status of these three segments, by applying different methodological approaches. Our analyses indicate that the assessment results are sensitive to a selection of indicators for ecological quality objectives that are affected by a broad spectrum of human activities and natural processes (biodiversity), less so for objectives that are influenced by a relatively narrow array of drivers (eutrophications, hazardous substances). The choice of indicator aggregation rule appeared to be of essential importance for assessment results for all three segments, whereas the hierarchical structure of indicators had only a minor influence. Trend-based assessment was shown to be a useful supplement to reference-based evaluation, being independent of the problems related to defining reference values and indicator aggregation methodologies. Results of this study will help in setting priorities for future efforts to improve environmental assessments in the Baltic Sea and elsewhere, and to ensure the transparency of the assessment procedure.
  • Ojaveer, H., J. Kotta, A. Põllumäe, M. Põllupüü, A. Jaanus and M. Vetemaa. (2011). Alien species in a brackish water temperate ecosystem: annual-scale dynamics in response to environmental variability. Environmental Research 111(7), 933-942. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2011.03.002
    View abstract Alien species contribute to global change in all marine ecosystems. Environmental variability can affect species distribution and population sizes, and is therefore expected to influence alien species. In this study, we have investigated temporal variability of 11 alien species representing different trophic levels and ecological functions in two gulfs of the brackish Baltic Sea in relation to environmental change. Independent of the invasion time, organism group or the life-history stage, abundance and/or biomass of the investigated alien species was either stable or displayed abrupt increases over time. Timing in population shifts was species-specific and exhibited no generic patterns, indicating that the observed large shifts in environmental parameters have no uniform consequences to the alien biota. In general, the inter-annual dynamics of alien and native species was not largely different, though native species tended to exhibit more diverse variability patterns compared to the alien species. There were no key environmental factors that affected most of the alien species, instead, the effects varied among the studied gulfs and species. Non-indigenous species have caused prominent structural changes in invaded communities as a result of exponential increase in the most recent invasions, as well as increased densities of the already established alien species.
  • Olenin, S., M. Elliott, I. Bysveen, P.F. Culverhouse, D. Daunys, G.B.J. Dubelaar, S. Gollasch, P. Goulletquer, A. Jelmert, Y. Kantor, K.B. Mezeth, D. Minchin, A. Occhipinti-Ambrogi, I. Olenina and J. Vandekerkhove. (2011). Recommendations on methods for the detection and control of biological pollution in marine coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62(12), 2598-2604.
    View abstract Adverse effects of invasive alien species (IAS), or biological pollution, is an increasing problem in marine coastal waters, which remains high on the environmental management agenda. All maritime countries need to assess the size of this problem and consider effective mechanisms to prevent introductions, and if necessary and where possible to monitor, contain, control or eradicate the introduced impacting organisms. Despite this, and in contrast to more enclosed water bodies, the openness of marine systems indicates that once species are in an area then eradication is usually impossible. Most institutions in countries are aware of the problem and have sufficient governance in place for management. However, there is still a general lack of commitment and concerted action plans are needed to address this problem. This paper provides recommendations resulting from an international workshop based upon a large amount of experience relating to the assessment and control of biopollution.
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