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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Linking consumer physiological status to food-web structure and prey food value in the Baltic Sea

Karlson, Agnes M. L.; Gorokhova, Elena; Gårdmark, Anna; Pekcan-Hekim, Zeynep; Casini, Michele; Albertsson, Jan; Sundelin, Brita; Karlsson, Olle; Bergstrom, Lena


Declining physiological status in marine top consumers has been observed worldwide. We investigate changes in the physiological status and population/community traits of six consumer species/groups in the Baltic Sea (1993-2014), spanning four trophic levels and using metrics currently operational or proposed as indicators of food-web status. We ask whether the physiological status of consumers can be explained by food-web structure and prey food value. This was tested using partial least square regressions with status metrics for gray seal, cod, herring, sprat and the benthic predatory isopod Saduria as response variables, and abundance and food value of their prey, abundance of competitors and predators as predictors. We find evidence that the physiological status of cod, herring and sprat is influenced by competition, predation, and prey availability; herring and sprat status also by prey size. Our study highlights the need for management approaches that account for species interactions across multiple trophic levels.


Benthic-pelagic coupling; Benthivore; Ecological indicator; Long-term time series; Piscivore; Zooplanktivore

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2020, Volume: 49, number: 2, pages: 391-406