Abstract

La Guajira is an exploited tropical upwelling ecosystem in the Colombian Caribbean coast. A trophic model of 27 functional groups was constructed using the ECOPATH 5.0 Beta software to integrate the available information on the ecosystem. The model allowed a comparison with other trophic flow models of upwelling ecosystems. Total system biomass (68t/km2/year), net system production (1 248.5 t/km2/year), and total system throughput (3 275 t/km2/year) make La Guajira moderate when compared with other systems. The largest amount of energy throughput is achieved from trophic level I to II (68.93 %), although an important proportion of the total flow originates from detritus (32 %). The production/respiration ratio exceeds 1, suggesting that La Guajira is an immature ecosystem and is in development, as determined by its low ascendency (33.7 %) and high development capacity (66.3 %), similar to other upwellings that have values of ascendency between 20 % and 35 %. Although the basic input data were good and covered 1995 to 2000, appropriate information is still not available on some trophic groups such as biomass (for phytoplankton, invertebrates, catfishes and pelagic predator fishes), secondary production data (invertebrates, pelagic predator fishes, and small pelagic fishes), and seabird and mammal populations, which are top trophic levels and an essential part of upwelling ecosystems.