Ecosystem Modelling Working Group


Marine organisms are connected by diverse types of interactions. The architecture of these interactions regulates the functioning of ecosystems and, in turn, influences biodiversity. For instance, predator-prey relationships shape energy circulation in food webs thus determining their resilience and stability. Understanding the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships through the modelling of ecological interactions is far from trivial. This is because most interactions vary during seasons and the exposure of ecosystems to multi-stressors (e.g. ocean warming, species invasion, overfishing and eutrophication) makes complicated the identification of cause-effect mechanisms.

Research in the group aims at (1) investigating the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under the effect of global warming (Fig. 1; e.g. Pansch et al. Global Change Biol. 2018), (2) quantifying the impact of multi-stressors on food web structure and functioning (Fig. 2; e.g. Bodini et al. Limnol. Oceanogr. 2018) and (3) modelling socioecological networks to define how changes in ecosystem functioning affect the benefits nature provides to humans (e.g. Kluger et al. Ocean. Coast. Manage. 2019). Our studies are conducted using empirical data from experiments and field surveys. We apply different techniques that include network analysis, multivariate statistics and dynamic simulations.


Dr. Marco Scotti (Group Leader): Community ecology, ecosystem modelling, fisheries management, food webs, linking biodiversity to ecosystem functioning, loop analysis, network analysis, seagrass communities, socioeconomic models

Hannah Gaber Student Assistant


Former members:

Daniel Pereira – University of Parma, Italy
Maria Cecilia Carcedo – Instituto Argentino de Oceanografía, Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Marta Rocchi – University of Bologna, Italy
Rebecca Piontek – Falkland Islands Fisheries Department, Falkland Islands


Current Projects

(1) Impact of fishing and climate change over the western Baltic Sea


Multiple anthropic-induced stressors pose serious concerns on biodiversity conservation in the western Baltic Sea. Commercially important fish species such as cod and herring are the target of unsustainable fishing extraction, which already caused the dramatic decline of stocks and catches. Climate change reduces the reproductive success of herring. Eutrophication causes oxygen depletion of bottom waters and sediment thus severely affecting benthic communities and reducing the probability of cod egg survival. Our current projects aim at addressing concrete questions for implementing ecosystem-based management in the western Baltic Sea: (1) what is the amount of catches that should be allowed to avoid the erosion of stocks and preserve endangered species such as the harbour porpoise?
(2) Where to locate novel marine protected areas if the goal is maximizing the reproductive success of commercially relevant species under future warming scenarios?

Running Projects

– Ökosystemgerechtes Fischereimanagement in der deutschen AWZ (Ecosystem-based fisheries management in the German EEZ) (BfN)

balt_ADAPT – Adaptation of the western Baltic coastal fishery to climate change (FONA, BMBF)





Upcoming projects


EcoScope – Ecocentric management for sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems (H2020, EU)



SpaCeParti – Coastal fishery, biodiversity, spatial use and climate change: a participative approach to navigate the western Baltic Sea into a sustainable future (DAM, BMBF)



(2) Ecosystem productivity and blue carbon in the southern North Sea

Coastal ecosystems are crucial for carbon storage. Seagrasses and macroalgae growth contributes to carbon sequestration as well as the accumulation and burial of organic matter in the sediment. Various stressors such as global warming and the introduction of non-native species impair the efficiency of carbon sequestration. They may in fact increase the magnitude of respiration losses and simplify the food web architecture, thus reducing the resilience of coastal ecosystems. In the iSEAL project, we will combine mesocosms experiments, data from field surveys and network models to predict the impact of temperature raise and invasive species (e.g. Pacific oyster) on the stability and carbon sequestration in future coastal ecosystems of the Wadden Sea

Upcoming Project

iSEAL – Trans- and interdisciplinary social-ecological network analysis based on long-term monitoring, experi-
mental data and stakeholders’ assessment (DAM, BMBF)




  • David Needham – construction and analysis of co-occurrence microbial networks
  • Friederike Prowe – modelling different components of marine plankton biodiversity – MODIV
  • Henk-Jan Hoving – the role of cephalopods in the Azorean pelagic food web (co-supervision of Nis Hansen) and new algorithms to identify bottlenecks to carbon circulation in food webs (project with Miguel Guerreiro)
  • Rainer Froese – ecosystem-based fisheries management and development of new ecosystem indicators
  • Silvia Opitz – ecosystem models of the western Baltic Sea and southern North Sea to test the impact of alternative fisheries management strategies



  • Anna-Lea Golz (AWI, Sylt) – carbon cycling in a model ecosystem exposed to ionizing radiations
  • Antonio Bodini (University of Parma) – structure and stability of aquatic food webs; loop analysis to study the functioning of socioecological systems
  • Behzad Mostajir and Francesca Vidussi (CNRS, Montpellier) – the impact of warming on microbial food webs in coastal and lagoon ecosystems
  • Camille Poirier (University of Oxford) – construction and analysis of co-occurrence microbial networks
  • Ferenc Jordán (CEU, Vienna) – network analysis of food webs to identify the functional importance of species
  • Juan-Carlos Molinero (IRD, Sète) – the role of jellyfish in marine food webs
  • Lotta Clara Kluger (CAU, Kiel) – network analysis of socioecological systems along the Peruvian coast
  • Maysa Ito (IFREMER, Boulogne-sur-Mer) – blue carbon and analysis of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships in coastal ecosystems
  • Nathalie Niquil (CNRS, Caen) – socioecological models emerging from the construction of offshore wind farms


40. Scotti, M., Pereira, D., Bodini, A. Understanding social ecological systems using loop analysis. Human Ecology Review, in press
39. Niquil, N., Scotti, M., Fofack-Garcia, R., Haraldsson, M., Thermes, M., Raoux, A., Loc'h, L., Mazé, C., 2021. The merits of loop analysis for the qualitative modeling of social-Ecological Systems in Presence of Offshore Wind Farms. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9, 635798
38. Trombetta, T., Vidussi, F., Roques, C., Scotti, M., Mostajir, B., 2020. Marine microbial food web networks during phytoplankton bloom and non-bloom periods: warming favors smaller organism interactions and intensifies trophic cascade. Frontiers in Microbiology 11, 502336
37. Ito, M., Scotti, M., Franz, M., Barboza, F.R., Buchholz, B., Zimmer, M., Guy-Haim, T., Wahl, M., 2019. Effects of temperature on carbon circulation in macroalgal food webs are mediated by herbivores. Marine Biology 166, 158
36. Carcedo, M.C., Fiori, S.M., Scotti, M., Ito, M., Dutto, M.S., Carbone, M.E. 2019. Dominant bivalve in an exposed sandy beach regulates community structure through spatial competition. Estuaries and Coasts 42, 1912-1923
35. Kluger, L.C., Scotti, M., Vivar, I., Wolff, M. 2019. Specialization of fishers leads to greater impact of external disturbance: evidence from a social-ecological network modelling exercise for Sechura Bay, northern Peru. Ocean & Coastal Management 179, 104861
34. Olmo Gilabert, R., Navia, A.F., De La Cruz-Agüero, G., Molinero, J.C., Sommer, U., Scotti, M. 2019. Body size and mobility explain species centralities in the Gulf of California food web. Community Ecology 20, 149-160
33. Franz, M., Barboza, F.R., Hinrichsen, H.H., Lehmann, A., Scotti, M., Hiebenthal, C., Molis, M., Schütt, R., Wahl, M. 2019. Long-term records of hard-bottom communities in the southwestern Baltic Sea reveal the decline of a foundation species. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 219, 242-251
32. Picq, S., Scotti, M., Puebla, O. 2019. Behavioural syndromes as a link between ecology and mate choice: a field study in a reef fish population. Animal Behaviour 150, 219-237
31. Pansch, C., Scotti, M., Barboza, F.R., Al‐Janabi, B., Brakel, J., Briski, E., Bucholz, B., Franz, M., Ito, M., Paiva, F., Saha, M., Sawall, Y., Weinberger, F., Wahl, M. 2018. Heat waves and their significance for a temperate benthic community: a near‐natural experimental approach. Global Change Biology 24, 4357-4367
30. Sommer, U., Charalampous, E., Scotti, M., Moustaka-Gouni, M. 2018. Big fish eat small fish: implications for food chain length? Community Ecology 19, 107-115
29. Domin, H., Zurita-Gutiérrez, Y.H., Scotti, M., Buttlar, J., Hentschel Humeida, U., Fraune, S. 2018. Predicted bacterial interactions affect in vivo microbial colonization dynamics in Nematostella. Frontiers in Microbiology 9, 728
28. Bodini, A., Rocchi, M., Scotti, M. 2018. Insights into the ecology of the Black Sea through the qualitative loop analysis of the community structure. Limnology and Oceanography 63, 968-984
27. Pizzol, M., Scotti, M., 2017. Identifying marginal supplying countries of wood products via trade network analysis. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 22, 1146-1158
26. Misselbeck, K., Marchetti, L., Field, M.S., Scotti, M., Priami, C., Stover, P.J., 2017. A hybrid stochastic model of folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism: effect of the common C677T MTHFR variant on de novo thymidylate biosynthesis. Scientific Reports 7, 797
25. Rocchi, M., Scotti, M., Micheli, F., Bodini, A., 2017. Key species and impact of fishery through food web analysis: a case study from Baja California Sur, Mexico. Journal of Marine Systems 165, 92-102
24. Caberlotto, L., Marchetti, L., Lauria, M., Scotti, M., Parolo, S., 2016. Integration of transcriptomic and genomic data suggests candidate mechanisms for APOE4-mediated pathogenic action in Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific Reports 6, 32583
23. Moustaka-Gouni, M., Kormas, K.A., Scotti, M., Vardaka, E., Sommer, U., 2016. Warming and acidification effects on planktonic heterotrophic pico-and nanoflagellates in a mesocosm experiment. Protist 167, 389-410
22. Gardi, C., Visioli, G., Conti, F.D., Scotti, M., Menta, C., Bodini, A., 2016. High Nature Value Farmland: assessment of soil organic carbon in Europe. Frontiers in Environmental Science 4, 47
21. Nyima, T., Müller, M., Hooiveld, G.J., Morine, M.J., Scotti, M., 2016. Nonlinear transcriptomic response to dietary fat intake in the small intestine of C57BL/6J mice. BMC Genomics 17, 106
20. Scott-Boyer, M.P., Lacroix, S., Scotti, M., Morine, M.J., Kaput, J., Priami, C., 2016. A network analysis of cofactor-protein interactions for analyzing associations between human nutrition and diseases. Scientific Reports 6, 19633
19. Jordán, F., Lauria, M., Scotti, M., Nguyen, T.-P., Praveen, P., Morine, M.J., Priami, C., 2015. Diversity of key players in the microbial ecosystems of the human body. Scientific Reports 5, 15920
18. Wahl, M., Buchholz, B., Winde, V., Golomb, D., Guy-Haim, T., Müller, J., Rilov, G., Scotti, M., Böttcher, M.E., 2015. A mesocosm concept for the simulation of near-natural shallow underwater climates: the Kiel Outdoor Benthocosms (KOB). Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 13, 651-663
17. Scotti, M., Jordán, F., 2015. The structural importance of less abundant species in Prince William Sound food web. Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution 61, 77-89
16. Jordán, F., Scotti, M., Mike, Á., Ortiz, M., 2014. Strong asymmetrical inter-specific relationships in food web simulations. Marine Ecology Progress Series 512, 89-98
15. Scotti, M., Ciocchetta, F., Jordán, F., 2013. Social and landscape effects on food webs: a multi-level network simulation model. Journal of Complex Networks 1, 160-182
14. Caberlotto, L., Lauria, M., Nguyen, T.-P., Scotti, M., 2013. The central role of AMP-kinase and energy homeostasis impairment in Alzheimer's disease: a multifactor network analysis. PLOS ONE 8, e78919
13. Pizzol, M., Scotti, M., Thomsen, M., 2013. Network analysis as a tool for assessing environmental sustainability: applying the ecosystem perspective to a Danish Water Management System. Journal of Environmental Management 118, 21-31
12. Scotti, M., Stella, L., Shearer, E.J., Stover, P.J., 2013. Modeling cellular compartmentation in one-carbon metabolism. WIREs Systems Biology and Medicine 5, 343-365
11. Scotti, M., Gjata, N., Livi, C.M., Jordán, F., 2012. Dynamical effects of weak trophic interactions in a stochastic food web simulation. Community Ecology 13, 230-237
10. Jordán, F., Scotti, M., 2012. From C:P ratios to polar meta-ecosystems. Ecological Modelling 245, 1-2
9. Gjata, N., Scotti, M., Jordán, F., 2012. The strength of simulated indirect interaction modules in a real food web. Ecological Complexity 11, 160-164
8. Nguyen, T.-P., Scotti, M., Morine, M.J., Priami, C., 2011. Model-based clustering reveals vitamin D dependent multi-centrality hubs in a network of vitamin-related proteins. BMC Systems Biology 5, 195
7. Jordán, F., Scotti, M., Priami, C., 2011. Process algebra-based computational tools in ecological modelling. Ecological Complexity 8, 357-363
6. Scotti, M., Jordán, F., 2010. Relationships between centrality indices and trophic levels in food webs. Community Ecology 11, 59-67
5. Scotti, M., Bondavalli, C., Bodini, A., Allesina, S., 2009. Using trophic hierarchy to understand food web structure. Oikos 118, 1695-1702
4. Scotti, M., Bondavalli, C., Bodini, A., 2009. Linking trophic positions and flow structure constraints in ecological networks: energy transfer efficiency or topology effect? Ecological Modelling 220, 3070-3080
3. Scotti, M., Bondavalli, C., Bodini, A., 2009. Ecological Footprint as a tool for local sustainability: the municipality of Piacenza (Italy) as a case study. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29, 39-50
2. Scotti, M., Podani, J., Jordán, F., 2007. Weighting, scale dependence and indirect effects in ecological networks: a comparative study. Ecological Complexity 4, 148-159
1. Scotti, M., Allesina, S., Bondavalli, C., Bodini, A., Abarca-Arenas, L.G., 2006. Effective trophic positions in ecological acyclic networks. Ecological Modelling 198, 495-505