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Shelf Seas Modelling Programme

The European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model (ERSEM)

ERSEM was initially developed in two projects, funded by the EU Marine Science and Technology programme: ERSEM (1990-1993), and ERSEM II (1993-1996), both under the leadership of Job Baretta at NIOZ (NL). In addition to NIOZ, these initial projects involved Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK), the Universities of Oldenburg (DE), Hamburg (DE), Strathclyde (UK) and Aberdeen (UK), Marine Laboratory Aberdeen, Ecological Modelling Centre (DK) and CEAB (ES).

The earlier ambitions of the programme were significant, not only in coupling benthic and pelagic processes in a physical context and developing a prognostic model, but also in extending up the food chain to age-structured mesozooplankton models, pelagic and demersal fish, and even seabirds.

Each of the initial ERSEM projects produced a special issue describing model systems and results. After cessation of the ERSEM projects model development occurred more independently in three main centres: NIOZ and PML, producing variants using the ERSEM name, and at Bologna, where ERSEM formed the basis of the Biogeochemical Flux Model (BFM). Since 1995, we estimate that in excess of 200 peer reviewed papers have been published using ERSEM. The ERSEM model now aspires to reach beyond its name, addressing biogeochemical and ecological systems in many applications in global regional seas, and more recently the global ocean, engaging in a range of heuristic, predictive and impact studies.

The SSB-ERSEM package includes a re-locatable biogeochemical water column model based on GOTM-ERSEM. The code and model setups presented have been developed as a community modelling tool for the NERC Defra UK Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry program. The first release of the model provides a baseline model version upon which we can build and develop new process model descriptions, drawing on the experimental and observational activities undertaken by the wider community. We see developing a better synergy between modelling and experimental studies as key to progress over the next decade, hence this system can by run on a PC and provides an entry level modelling tool for non-specialist modellers to engage in process modelling.


Two crew members launching a device for a benthic survey A single zooplankton under a microscope A brown brittle star on the seabed The bow of a research cruise taken from the top of the ship looking out across the ocean