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Modelling production per unit of food consumed in fish populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rodrigo Wiff, Mauricio A. Barrientos, Andres C. Milessi, J. C. Quiroz, John Harwood

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The ratio of production-to-consumption (rho) reflects how efficiently a population can transform ingested food into biomass. Usually this ratio is estimated by separately integrating cohort per-recruit production and consumption per unit of biomass. Estimates of rho from cohort analysis differ from those that consider the whole population, because fish populations are usually composed of cohorts that differ in their relative abundance. Cohort models for rho also assume a stable age-structure and a constant population size (stationary condition). This may preclude their application to harvested populations, in which variations in fishing mortality and recruitment will affect age-structure. In this paper, we propose a different framework for estimating (rho) in which production and consumption are modelled simultaneously to produce a population estimator of rho. Food consumption is inferred from the physiological concepts underpinning the generalised von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF). This general framework allows the effects of different age-structures to be explored, with a stationary population as a special case. Three models with different complexities, depending mostly on what assumptions are made about age-structure, are explored. The full data model requires knowledge about food assimilation efficiency, parameters of the VBGF and the relative proportion of individuals at age a at time y (P-y(a)). A simpler model, which requires less data, is based on the stationary assumption. Model results are compared with estimates from cohort models for rho using simulated fish populations of different lifespans. The models proposed here were also applied to three fish populations that are targets of commercial fisheries in the south-east Pacific Uncertainty in the estimation of rho was evaluated using a resampling approach. Simulation showed that cohort and population models produce different estimates for rho and those differences depend on lifespan, fishing mortality and recruitment variations. Results from the three case studies show that the population model gives similar estimates to those reported by empirical models in other fish species. This modelling framework allows rho to be related directly to population length- or age-structure and thus has the potential to improve the biological realism of both population and ecosystem models. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Early online date18 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2015

    Research areas

  • Consumption, Von Bertalanffy growth function, Population energetics, Conversion efficiency, Ecosystem models, Growth, Management, Biomass, Age

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