Key Processes and Sustainable Mechanisms of Ecosystem Food Production in the Coastal Ocean of China (National “973” Program No. 2006CB400600) (KPFPC)

Summary of the project

The ecosystems of China Seas are still the main production areas to provide seafood in this country for the 21st Century. However, the increasing demands for aquatic products will face critical problems, e.g., how to maintain the aquatic products to fulfil social and economic developments with sustainability of ecosystems. There exist the conflicts between increasing in demand for aquatic production and the ecological capacity in coastal ecosystems.

The integrated study on the sustainability of marine ecosystem is a frontier of the global change sciences. The program will carry out integrated studies focusing on the coupling between biogeochemical cycles and the end-to-end food web in the China Seas, to understand the sustainable mechanisms in the coastal ocean ecosystems from the perspectives of both anthropogenic impacts and climate induced changes.

The major scientific questions to be dealt with are: the biogeochemical processes of food production, the physical mechanisms of biogenic element cycles and supplement, coupling mechanism of primary production with major biogeochemical processes, food web trophodynamics of major biological functional groups.

The implementation of the project is expected to make breakthroughs in some of the frontier scientific fields like the key processes of food production in the coastal and shelf ecosystems and sustainable utilization mechanisms of living resources. The achievements resulted from the program will provide scientific basis towards establishing ecosystem based management for sustainable food production.

Area of study

The yellow Sea and East China


Research activities of the China IMBER/GLOBEC project (973-II)

Qisheng TANG, Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Qingdao, China,

The China GLOBEC/IMBER national project (herein after “973” project), gives a priority to research of the marine biogeochemical cycles and key processes of end to end food web dynamics in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea. The project is entitled: “Key Processes and Mechanisms of Sustainable Food Production in the Coastal Ocean of China”, has been funded by Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST) for 2006-2010.
In 2006-2007, the “973” project was implemented with 3 research foci on: 1) diversity of biological functions and trophodynamics of end to end food web in Yellow Sea Cold Water (YSCW); 2) impact of Kuroshio and land-source inputs on the nutrient dynamics and food production in the shelf of the East China Sea, and 3) biogeochemistry and carrying capacity in typical mariculture areas. Figure 1 shows the survey areas of the three research foci. A total of 14 cruises of which 216 days were for focus 1 and 2 were carried out by the R/V “Bei Dou” in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea with another 122 days for focus 3 in the Sungou Bay of Shandong Province, North China and the Xiangshan Bay of Zhejiang Province, South China. The multidisciplinary surveys integrated six major research topics:

  • Bloom processes of phytoplankton, with emphasis on the development of the bloom and its contribution to food production of the ecosystem (i.e. bottom-up processes);
  • Relationship between zooplankton and higher trophic level living resources, including determination of key species and major functional groups at various trophic levels and their tropho-dynamic interactions in the food web;
  • Nutrient replenishment on the East China Sea shelf, with emphasis on the hydro-dynamic processes induced by the Kuroshio incursion from East of Taiwan and through the Taiwan Strait;
  • Nutrient supply in the coastal spawning ground of East China Sea, including those due to input from land-sources and upwelling induced by monsoon;
  • Mechanisms of the formation and seasonality of coastal hypoxia off the Changjiang Estuary, with emphasis on the role of nutrient over-enrichment in coastal waters on the hypoxia and its effect on the structure and function of the pelagic and benthic ecosystems;
  • Biogeochemical cycle and ecological carrying capacity in typical marine culture areas, including shellfish/algae poly-culture in Shandong Province (Sungou Bay) and sea-pen fish/cage culture in Zhejiang Province (Xiangshan Bay).

During the annual meeting of the IGBP Chinese National Committee in Beijing, January 12-13, the report from the GLOBEC/IMBER Task Team highlighted the following progress:

  • Phytoplankton blooms in the absence water column stratification are an important spring phenomenon in the Yellow Sea that impacts the structure of food web and nutrient cycling;
  • Mechanisms and processes of the formation and variability of coastal hypoxia off the Changjiang Estuary should be evaluated for a link to the nutrient over-enrichment in coastal waters and fisheries across the shelf;
  • Study on functional groups will be promoted for zooplankton related research activities in the next two years;
  • New evidence on the impact of climate change and fluctuation cycle of living marine resources in the China Seas were identified 
  • Studies of ecological geography will provide further information towards understanding sub-eco-regions in the coastal ocean, like the Yellow Sea and East China Sea;
  • Establishment and build-up of new food production models on the basis of poly-culture experiences in the marine areas will speed up the knowledge transfer of basic research and help management at ecosystem level.

A budget of 2.8 million US dollars has been approved for 2008-2010. The budget is slightly over expectations. The sea-going surveys for 2008-2009 will focus on the following themes:

  • Investigation of fishery spawning-ground for key living resources in the East China Sea shelf offshore the Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces (Focus 2). This will involve two cruises for a total of approximately 30 days which will be conducted in May and June, 2008;
  • Building-up of new food production models on the basis of poly-culture practices in bay area (Focus 3 above). The routine investigation of Sungou Bay will last for about 40 days in 2008. It will primarily examine the biogeochemical cycle and ecological carrying capacity in shellfish/algae culture areas in Shandong Province with comparison to fish cage culture areas in Zhejiang Province;
  • Trophic-dynamics and the interactions of main functional groups in the food web from end to end (Focus 1). The cold water mass area of Yellow Sea has been chosen as the target region for implementation. The sea-going survey will be separated into three phases, spring bloom and phytoplankton, zooplankton function group feeding and change, and response by high trophic level living resources. A 50 days cruise is planned for 2009.