Ecosystem health status and trophic modeling of an anthropogenically impacted small tropical estuary along India's west coast.


Lal DM(1), Sreekanth GB(2), Shivakrishna A(1), Kumar R(3), Nayak BB(1), Abidi ZJ(4).
Author information:
(1)ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai, 400 061, India.
(2)ICAR-Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute, Goa, 403 402, India.
(3)ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Regional Research Centre, Mumbai, 400 061, India.
(4)ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai, 400 061, India. [Email]


The tropical estuaries are characterized with high biological production and also impacted by anthropogenic activities. Describing these estuaries in terms of ecological data and trophic dynamics to reveal the ecological impacts is gaining attention recently. In this study, the ecological structure is analyzed for a heavily impacted small macrotidal tropical estuary, Ulhas river estuary (URE), situated near Mumbai megacity in the western coast of India, to delineate the impact of anthropogenic stressors on the ecosystem functioning. The URE is being exploited for sand and fisheries resources, and also faces risks from anthropogenic activities. The ecological data of URE were compiled for 2017-18 together with the most relevant literature estimates to construct an ecosystem model. A trophic organization in 20 functional groups was identified for URE using Ecopath modeling approach. The functional groups identified in the food web ranged from detritus and primary producers (trophic level (TL) = 1) to large pelagics (TL = 4.14). Detritivory: herbivory ratio (1.35) indicated that the detritus chain is dominant over the primary producer's chain. The total system throughput (TST) was estimated as 16 736.2 t km-2year-1. The indices such as net system production (NSP = 1 398.781 t km-2 year-1), total primary production/total biomass (TPP/TB = 25.17), biomass/total system throughput (TB/TST = 0.01), recycling index (Finn's Cycling Index = 13.94%), system omnivory index (0.3), relative ascendency (25.6%), and system overhead (74.4%) classified URE as an immature system. The eco-exergy index (30748.54 gm detritus equivalent m-2) showed that the ecosystem is a moderately stable and relatively less organized network. The estuarine fish community index (EFCI) yielded a value of 38 indicating the poor health status of the fish community in URE. The study delivers a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem setting in URE and characterizes the prevailing condition. The ecological indicators analyzed here point towards a medium to a high level of impact in URE due to anthropogenic activities.