Ecosystem based management (EBM) is today 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. Todays 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 is developing 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. SYMBIOSES is a modular system to allow connection of a suite of modelling components using a plug & play approach. The design facilitates replacement of existing or inclusion of new models to the framework over time. A first version of SYMBIOSES will be running on the Norwegian National Supercomputer node (NOTUR), at the University of Tromsø in 2014. In subsequent years, the system will be tuned and optimised with new field and laboratory results.

Fishing and petroleum activities are introduced into the model in similar ways, allowing for comparison of the risks and benefits for different environmental outcomes. The system generates a range of outputs, from water current fields and plankton distributions to toxicological endpoints and effects, to fisheries parameters.


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.