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Relating food web structure to resilience, keystone status and uncertainty in ecological responses


Condie, SA and Johnson, P and Fulton, EA and Bulman, CM, Relating food web structure to resilience, keystone status and uncertainty in ecological responses, Ecosphere, 5, (7) Article 81. ISSN 2150-8925 (2014) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Condie et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

DOI: doi:10.1890/ES14-00068.1


Food webs often include substructures that occur in much higher numbers than would be expected in random networks. These are referred to in the literature as network motifs. Here we explore how feedbacks within the most common food web motifs influence their responses to external factors such as environmental change or harvesting of species. We have used qualitative modelling approaches to demonstrate that simple three- and four-member motifs that include a closed feedback loop can exhibit a diverse range of qualitative responses, some of which are non-intuitive. The same outcomes are demonstrated to be emergent behaviors of larger food webs represented in complex ecosystem models. The sensitivity of ecological responses to small differences in food web motifs underlines the broader importance of structural uncertainty in ecological models. It is also argued that the resilience of species and their keystone status may be strongly influenced by their ecological role within particular motifs. Examples are provided from fisheries off southeastern Australian, where the slow recovery rates of some species have not previously been explained.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:keystone species, motif, resilience, small pelagic fish, squid, trophic model
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Ecosystem function
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Fulton, EA (Dr Elizabeth Fulton)
ID Code:119416
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Directorate
Deposited On:2017-08-01
Last Modified:2017-10-13
Downloads:118 View Download Statistics

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