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.

The Baltic ATLANTIS model: a holistic framework to evaluate ecosystem responses to global change

ATLANTIS is an ecosystem model that considers all parts of marine ecosystems – biophysical, economic and social1. The implementation of ATLANTIS model in the Baltic Sea region provides the next step in holistic ecosystem analyses by establishing links between ecosystem state and relevant pressures and drivers in a single modelling framework. The Baltic ATLANTIS model contains the full trophic spectrum and enables integrated assessment of marine ecosystem status and interactions in a multi-species context according to ecosystem sustainability in relation to pressures from physical forcing (climate, eutrophication), and spatially explicit pressures from the fisheries sectors as well as ecological consequences of occupation of space of other sectors. Moreover, it enables assessment of economic status and interactions in relation to fishery sector specific activities and pressures, spatially explicit fisheries management evaluation and simulation, as well as economic management implications for this sector.


The Baltic ATLANTIS model provides a unique holistic modelling framework that establishes key operational links between marine ecosystem state and key pressures and drivers such as climate, eutrophication and fishing among others.

The holistic modelling framework of Baltic ATLANTIS is constructed on the basis of several sub-models (e.g. hydrodynamic, biotic, exploitation) which are coupled to each other in a dynamic way (i.e. change in one causes a change in another). The food-web sub-model was informed using a comprehensive set of field data combined with other model results to provide spatio-temporal distributions of 33 biological groups, age and size distributions of populations, natural and fishing mortality rates, and many other biological and chemical parameters. Using observed natural (e.g. ocean currents, climate variability) and anthropogenic (fishing, eutrophication) forcing, we constructed a model that simulates realistic multispecies interactions across all trophic levels, from microscopic algae to marine seabirds and mammals. The success of this research work originates from the wealth of information and modeling capability assembled and developed also withi n the VECTORS project, and can thus be seen as an important synthesis product of the project.


The results of the Baltic ATLANTIS model enable the evaluation of ecosystem-wide responses to scenarios of change in eutrophication regimes.

In order to test the sensitivity and robustness of the complex biotic and abiotic interactions in the model, we applied several scenarios of reduced eutrophication pressure in the Western Baltic as well as the entire Baltic Sea. The model provided unique estimates of changes in fish biomass and production in response to change prey biomass and community composition under such environmental perturbations. Careful analysis of model results can shed more light on the key interactions and feedback mechanisms that are not taken into account in single-species models.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive


  • Fulton, E.A. 2001. The effects of model structure and complexity on the behavior and performance of marine ecosystem models. Ph.D. Doctoral thesis. School of Zoology. University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Lead Author:

Artur Palacz
Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU-Aqua)
Date of research:

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.