Integrated modelling framework

Integrated modelling framework

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is the foundation of international regulatory frameworks for managing the oceans and seas. The EBM approach enables sustainable use of marine goods and services while maintaining good environmental status.

Today’s risk assessment methods regulating petroleum industry activities are based on precautionary principles and worst case assumptions. These risk assessment procedures, while useful for environmental management and risk mitigation, are of limited value in EBM. A research consortium of 15 institutes developed an integrated modelling framework to facilitate ecosystem-based impact assessments for the marine environment.

The modelling framework simulates selected aspects of the marine biosphere in three dimensions of space and in time with a focus on fish and plankton populations. It is designed to predict realistic potential impacts of oil spill scenarios and to perform comparative evaluations of risks and benefits for a selection of activities. Fishing and petroleum activities are introduced into the model in similar ways, allowing for comparison of the risks and benefits for different environmental outcomes.

SYMBIOSES is a modular system to allow connection of a suite of modelling components using a plug & play approach. The system generates a range of outputs, from water current fields and plankton distributions to toxicological endpoints and effects, to fisheries parameters. The design facilitates replacement of existing or inclusion of new models to the framework over time.


Three models are linked to create the SYMBIOSES ecosystem. Individual-based larvae (LARMOD) and plankton (SINMOD) models are linked via recruitment (larval survival) to a multispecies fish population model (GADGET).


The spread of chemical components in the marine environment is simulated using the model FATES (a component of the SINTEF Marine Environmental Modeling Workbench). Individual to population level effects are quantified using OMEGA (Optimal Modeling for EcotoxicoloGical Application) or DEB (Dynamic Energy Budget). OMEGA requires generic, readily available toxicity data and physicochemical information while DEB requires data from toxicity experiments carried out for the species and compounds under consideration. Data assimilation and analysis is a key activity of this program component.

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