Food Web Dynamics (food + web_dynamics)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

Naive Analysis of Food Web Dynamics: A Study of Causal Judgment About Complex Physical Systems

Peter A. White
When people make judgments about the effects of a perturbation on populations of species in a food web, their judgments exhibit the dissipation effect: a tendency to judge that effects of the perturbation weaken or dissipate as they spread out through the food web from the locus of the perturbation. In the present research evidence for two more phenomena is reported. Terminal locations are points in the food web with just a single connection to the rest of the web. Judged changes tended to be higher for species at terminal locations than for species the same distance from the perturbation but at nonterminal locations. Branches are points in the web where a route splits into two or more routes. Judged changes tended to be lower for species following branching points than for species the same distance from the perturbation but not following branching points. It is proposed that the findings can be explained as effects of a mental model employing concepts of influence and resistance. Under this model a perturbation is a change in energy level at a point in the system that acts as an influence affecting the rest of the system. The basic concepts in this model are domain-general and on that basis it is predicted that the dissipation effect should be found in judgments of any physical system to which notions of influence and resistance can be applied. [source]

Differential effects of elevated nutrient and sediment inputs on survival, growth and biomass of a common larval fish species (Dorosoma cepedianum)

Summary 1. Elevated allochthonous inputs of nutrients and sediments to aquatic ecosystems are associated with eutrophication and sedimentation. Reservoirs receive substantial subsidies of nutrients and sediments from catchments due to their large catchment : lake area ratios. We examined the effect of elevated subsidies of sediments and/or dissolved nutrients on the success (survival, growth, biomass and condition factor) of larval gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), a widespread and dominant omnivorous fish in reservoir ecosystems. 2. We simulated allochthonous agricultural subsides by manipulating dissolved nutrients and sediment inputs in a 2 × 2 factorial design in experimental mesocosms. We predicted that larval fish success would be greater under elevated nutrients. However, we propose two alternative hypotheses with respect to the overall effect of allochthonous sediment inputs. If sediment inputs negatively affect larval gizzard feeding success, larval success would be highest when only nutrients are added and lowest when only sediments are added (+N > +N+S , C > +S). If high turbidity enhances larval foraging activity (due to greater contrast between prey and background), we predict that larval success would be highest when both subsidy types (nutrients and sediment) are elevated, intermediate when either nutrients or sediments are added and the lowest when no subsidies are added (+N+S > +N , +S > C). 3. Our results indicate that elevated nutrient and sediment conditions enhanced larval gizzard shad biomass, but the overall nutrient addition effect was greater than the sediment addition effect (+N , +N+S > +S > C). We observed differential effects of nutrient and sediment inputs on larval survival, growth and condition factors. 4. The enhancement of fish biomass in elevated nutrients (+N, +N+S) relative to control conditions was associated with improved gizzard shad survival and not greater growth. The enhancement of fish biomass in the elevated sediment treatment (+S) relative to the control conditions was caused by an increase in survival that more than compensated for a negative effect of sediment addition on growth. 5. Our findings support the recommendation that reservoir management practices must consider the links between land use practices and food web dynamics. Our results suggest that reduction of subsidies of nutrients and sediments to productive reservoirs would decrease survival of larval gizzard shad due to lower food availability. [source]

Influence of lateral gradients of hydrologic connectivity on trophic positions of fishes in the Upper Mississippi River

Summary 1. Riverscapes consist of the main channel and lateral slackwater habitats along a gradient of hydrological connectivity from maximum connection in main channel habitats to minimum connection in backwaters. Spatiotemporal differences in water currents along this gradient produce dynamic habitat conditions that influence species diversity, population densities and trophic interactions of fishes. 2. We examined the importance of lateral connectivity gradients for food web dynamics in the Upper Mississippi River during spring (high flow, moderately low temperatures) and summer (low flow, higher temperatures). We used literature information and gut contents analyses to determine feeding guilds and stable isotope analysis to estimate mean trophic position of local fish assemblages. During June and August 2006, we collected over 1000 tissue samples from four habitats (main channel, secondary channels, tertiary channels and backwaters) distributed within four hydrologic connectivity gradients. 3. Mean trophic position differed among feeding guilds and seasons, with highest values in spring. Mean trophic position of fish assemblages, variability in trophic position and food chain length (maximum trophic position) of the two dominant piscivore species (Micropterus salmoides and M. dolomieu) in both seasons were significantly associated with habitat along the lateral connectivity gradient. Food chain length peaked in tertiary channels in both seasons, probably due to higher species diversity of prey at these habitats. We infer that food chain length and trophic position of fish assemblages were lower in backwater habitats in the summer mainly because of the use of alternative food sources in these habitats. 4. A greater number of conspecifics exhibited significant among-habitat variation in trophic position during the summer, indicating that low river stages can constrain fish movements in the Upper Mississippi River. 5. Results of this study should provide a better understanding of the fundamental structure of large river ecosystems and an improved basis for river rehabilitation and management through knowledge of the importance of lateral complexity in rivers. [source]

Iron limits primary productivity during spring bloom development in the central North Atlantic

Abstract We present in situ biophysical measurements and bioassay experiments that demonstrate iron limitation of primary productivity during the spring bloom in the central North Atlantic. Mass balance calculations indicate that nitrate drawdown is iron (Fe)-limited and that aeolian Fe supply to this region cannot support maximal phytoplankton growth during the bloom. Using a simple simulation model, we show that relief of Fe limitation during the spring bloom can increase nitrate drawdown and, hence, new primary production, by 70%. We conclude that the episodic nature of iron supplied by dust deposition is an important factor controlling the dynamics of the spring bloom. From this, we hypothesize that variability in the timing and magnitude of the spring bloom in response to aeolian Fe supply will affect carbon drawdown and food web dynamics in the central North Atlantic. [source]

Interaction strengths in food webs: issues and opportunities

Eric L. Berlow
Summary 1Recent efforts to understand how the patterning of interaction strength affects both structure and dynamics in food webs have highlighted several obstacles to productive synthesis. Issues arise with respect to goals and driving questions, methods and approaches, and placing results in the context of broader ecological theory. 2Much confusion stems from lack of clarity about whether the questions posed relate to community-level patterns or to species dynamics, and to what authors actually mean by the term ,interaction strength'. Here, we describe the various ways in which this term has been applied and discuss the implications of loose terminology and definition for the development of this field. 3Of particular concern is the clear gap between theoretical and empirical investigations of interaction strengths and food web dynamics. The ecological community urgently needs to explore new ways to estimate biologically reasonable model coefficients from empirical data, such as foraging rates, body size, metabolic rate, biomass distribution and other species traits. 4Combining numerical and analytical modelling approaches should allow exploration of the conditions under which different interaction strengths metrics are interchangeable with regard to relative magnitude, system responses, and species identity. 5Finally, the prime focus on predator,prey links in much of the research to date on interaction strengths in food webs has meant that the potential significance of non-trophic interactions, such as competition, facilitation and biotic disturbance, has been largely ignored by the food web community. Such interactions may be important dynamically and should be routinely included in future food web research programmes. [source]

Lake morphometry predicts the degree of habitat coupling by a mobile predator

OIKOS, Issue 8 2009
Rebecca Dolson
Habitat coupling is an ecosystem process whereby semi-discontinuous habitats are connected through the movement of energy and nutrients by chemical, physical or biological processes. One oft-cited example is that of littoral,pelagic coupling in lakes. Theory has argued that such habitat coupling may be critical to food web dynamics, yet there have been few empirical studies that have quantified ecological factors that affect the degree of habitat coupling in ecosystems. Specifically, the degree to which habitat coupling occurs across important physical gradients has largely been ignored. To address this, we investigate the degree of littoral habitat coupling (i.e. the degree to which a top predator lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, derives energy from the littoral zone) along a gradient of lake shape, where lake shape modifies the relative quantity of coupled epilimnetic benthic and pelagic habitats within each lake. Herein we demonstrate that littoral habitat coupling is intensified in simple circular lakes compared to their reticulate counterparts in seven Canadian Shield lakes. Although the more reticulate lakes had larger areas of epilimnetic benthic habitat, littoral food sources comprised 11% compared to 24% of lake trout diet in reticulate and circular lakes, respectively. This heightened interaction in circular lakes also appears to translate into increased omnivory in more circular lakes compared to reticulate lakes such that lake trout of circular lakes have a significantly lower trophic position than lake trout of reticulate lakes (F1,5=6.71 p=0.05). These results suggest that it is the accessibility of littoral production via thermal refugia, and not the amount of littoral production, that determines the degree to which lake trout couple littoral and pelagic habitats in lakes. [source]