What is EcoOcean?

EcoOcean logoEcoOcean is a spatially and temporally explicit mechanistic marine ecosystem modelling (MEM) complex of the global ocean, that unifies the consideration of spatial-temporal food-web dynamics ranging from primary producers to top predators with the impacts of environmental change and worldwide fisheries.

EcoOcean is built upon a heavily modified version of Ecospace, the spatial-temporal module of the Ecopath with Ecosim approach, where EwE calculations were expanded or replaced to represent spatial heterogenity in fishing and the behaviour, growth and movement of functional groups across the worlds’ oceans.

EcoOcean contributes to the ISIMIP and FishMIP initiatives.

Diagram of the various components that make up the EcoOean v2 modelling diagram

Schematic overview of the EcoOcean v2 modelling complex (Coll et al. 2020)


  • 51 functional groups representing 3400+ species
  • 14 fishing fleets representing 1,365 global fisheries
  • run period 1950-2100 at monthly time steps
  • spatial resolution 1dd (EcoOcean V1 and V2)
  • ISIMIP3b input data volume: 60GB
  • EcoOcean output data volume: 120GB
  • EcoOcean run time: approximately 8 hours (PC)

Ecospace models for smaller areas can suffice with functional groups to generalize the representation of the different species within. EcoOcean, representing generic functional groups at the global scale, needs to consider the fact that the species compostion within functional groups vastly differs over time and space.

We have found a way to represent the spatial distribution and environmental preferences of 3400+ species within generic functional groups without having to explicitly model these species. This allows the modelling complex to account for the vast differences in termal preferences, depth affinities, and other major environmental conditions within a single functional group.

We call this system ‘cell-specific responses’. This system only considers environmental preferences for those species within a functional group that are likely to occur in those cells, where the likelihood of occurrence is a combined assessment of per-species cell suitability and evolving native distribution ranges.

EcoOcean incorporates temperature-adjusted metabolic rates to account for spatial differences in species growth and production under influence of long-term global temperatures.

EcoOcean is driven by global reanalysis of historical fishing effort per LME. Within each LME, historical total effort is distributed via the Ecospace fishing effort gravity model.

EcoOcean is a testing bed for exploring the impact of ecological, climatological and socioeconomic hypotheses, and allows for systematic exploration and analysis of combintations of hypotheses to reproduce historical observations, and to forecast plausible states of future ecosystems. Such modularity is direly needed to allow the schientific community to learn from mechanistic models and their uncertainty, and to advance ecological understanding.


EcoOcean is a product of ongoing collaborations between Ecopath International Initiative (Spain), the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) (Spain), the Institute of the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia (Canada), and Mountainsoft (Canada)

Development is funded through the projects TRIATLAS and ProOceans.


EcoOcean model results for the ISIMIP3b simulation rounds can be downloaded directly from isimip.org

The source code to EcoOcean is not freely available, but we are open to collaborations. To discuss options please contact us.


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