BONUS XWEBS overview

Food webs are essential for ecosystem functioning, yet resource management rarely
incorporates food web knowledge, in part due to the complexity of food webs and the
heterogeneous knowledge base. The overarching aims of BONUS XWEBS are to synthesize
available knowledge on food webs in the Baltic Sea, to assess how food web knowledge is
used in management, and to outline a future vision for this field. At the core of the XWEBS
approach is a series of writing workshops, in which we link the expertise from our core
consortium (four partner institutes from four Baltic nations, coordinated by the GEOMAR
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel) with that of experts as well as stakeholders from
around the Baltic Sea.

Why are food webs important?

Food webs are the backbones of healthy ecosystems providing sustainable goods and
services to humans. Their function is essential for energy and matter cycling and for healthy
populations and interactions of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Food webs also play an
important role in the buffering of global and regional anthropogenic impacts resulting from
e.g., human exploitation, eutrophication, hypoxia, climate change, and the introduction of
non-indigenous species. Understanding of the complex food web processes in the Baltic Sea
will therefore be key to predict futures states of Baltic ecosystems and to manage resources
sustainably, now and in the future.

The problem

While information about Baltic Sea food webs has grown strongly over the past decade, the
synthesis of this knowledge and its transfer and integration into management strategies is
lagging. Also, a number of crucial knowledge gaps remain, including insufficient abilities to
forecast future states of food webs. Baltic food web science thus stands at a crossroad:
synthesis is needed, and decisions need to be taken on where to direct future research
efforts and on how to best apply the new wealth of information in practical management to
benefit society.

XWEBS and Baltic Sea food webs

BONUS XWEBS has the objective to address these pressing needs, by

  • Synthesizing what we know and need to know about Baltic food webs, their temporal and spatial dynamics, the impacts of bottom-up (e.g., nutrient availability) and top-down (i.e., grazing, predation, harvesting) forces under changing anthropogenic drivers, and their past, present and future states. In these efforts, we are taking stock and synthesizing the wealth of new information available from completed and running BONUS food web projects as well as from outside BONUS.
  • Assessing the bottlenecks in the application of this knowledge in assessment and management.
  • Providing a future vision for Baltic food web science, including the identification of the methods, tools and concepts required for the incorporation of knowledge into management.

The ultimate goal of these efforts is to guide Baltic food web science in the direction needed
to support the sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services in the future.

Group photo taken at our project meeting in Copenhagen, June 2019.


January 2021: Four XWEBS policy briefs highlighting project results and their applied implications are now available! See "reports" on our XWEBS output page.

November 25 2020: BONUS XWEBS coordinator Dr. Jan Dierking delivers the keynote presentation at the 1st BNE regional conference on sustainability (topic: "Focus Baltic Sea"). The presentation addressed Baltic systems under global and regional changes, with an update on XWEBS conclusions. The audience consisted of teachers and school kids from northern Germany.

November 24 2020: BONUS XWEBS contributes with a presentation to the 8th and final BONUS Forum (online)! Access the forum presentations and lots of information on BONUS and the BONUS program output here!

November 24 2020: Check out the new BONUS legacy video, out now, here!

October 21 2020: The 4th BONUS Symposium on Food web knowledge synthesis for the Baltic Sea on October 21 2020 09:00-12:00 CET (online) brought together 89 participants, representing a range from stakeholders from 11 different countries! Find a report summarizing the symposium highlights, the program and all presentations for download here

September 15-17 2020: The BONUS XWEBS team and collaborators from around the Baltic Sea advanced food web knowledge synthesis and discussed perspectives for the future during a three-day writing meeting from September 15-17 (online event)! Outcomes of the discussions support our WP1 and 2 manuscripts.

March 2020 - present: BONUS XWEBS food web knowledge becoming available! Deliverables and manuscript are starting to accumulate and are available under “XWEBS output” on this website!

May 13 2020: BONUS XWEBS at HELCOM! The XWEBS team contributed with a presentation of project highlights to the food web session at the HELCOM STATE & CONSERVATION working group meeting (online event). The subsequent discussion with strong XWEBS representation highlighted a fundamental dilemma: there is agreement that more formalized inclusion of food web knowledge could improve resource management under global change, but it is not yet evident how monitoring and practical application can be achieved given the complexity of food web information.

February 5-7 2020: Food web knowledge galore - the BONUS XWEBS team participates in the final meeting of the 4-year BONUS BLUEWEBS project on Baltic Sea food webs! The meeting highlighted important advances in the understanding of possible future (novel, never experienced) states of the Baltic, and the consequences of different resource management actions. See the final policy brief of the BONUS BLUEWEBS project here.

October 14-17 2019: The first BONUS XWEBS writing meeting to advance the synthesis of Baltic Sea food web knowledge takes place in Kiel. 16 participants from 10 institutes and six nations from around the Baltic Sea spent three stimulating days, with work focusing around the concept manuscript "Food webs in a sea of change", to be advanced over the course of XWEBS.