Mass-balance models, such as Ecopath, could be useful tools to investigate effects of the biological community changes induced by external sources of disturbance (e.g., Aquaculture) on the ecosystem structure. Moreover,mass-balance models could be useful to identify the species which play a key-role in driving ecosystem processes. Under the precautionary approach to ecosystem management, Ecopath allows BDRI's investigators to perform exploratory data analysis on an ecosystem using a common framework by joining together single-species data resources into a coherent food web.

This kind of model gives a steady-state representation for a given period of the energy flows of ecosystems, including the trophic relations among organisms and the outgoing flow due to fisheries. On the whole, these flows represent the network structure of the food web. The major advantage of this network approach is its suitability to the application of a broad field of theories that are useful for ecosystem studies. These include thermodynamic concepts, information theory, trophic level description and network analysis.


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