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Decades of dietary data demonstrate regional food web structures in the Southern Ocean


McCormack, SA and Melbourne-Thomas, J and Trebilco, R and Blanchard, JL and Raymond, B and Constable, A, Decades of dietary data demonstrate regional food web structures in the Southern Ocean, Ecology and Evolution, 11, (1) pp. 227-241. ISSN 2045-7758 (2021) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2020 the authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1002/ece3.7017


Understanding regional‐scale food web structure in the Southern Ocean is critical to informing fisheries management and assessments of climate change impacts on Southern Ocean ecosystems and ecosystem services. Historically, a large component of Southern Ocean ecosystem research has focused on Antarctic krill, which provide a short, highly efficient food chain, linking primary producers to higher trophic levels. Over the last 15 years, the presence of alternative energy pathways has been identified and hypotheses on their relative importance in different regions raised. Using the largest circumpolar dietary database ever compiled, we tested these hypotheses using an empirical circumpolar comparison of food webs across the four major regions/sectors of the Southern Ocean (defined as south of 40S) within the austral summer period. We used network analyses and generalizations of taxonomic food web structure to confirm that while Antarctic krill are dominant as the mid‐trophic level for the Atlantic and East Pacific food webs (including the Scotia Arc and Western Antarctic Peninsula), mesopelagic fish and other krill species are dominant contributors to predator diets in the Indian and West Pacific regions (East Antarctica and the Ross Sea). We also highlight how tracking data and habitat modeling for mobile top predators in the Southern Ocean show that these species integrate food webs over large regional scales. Our study provides a quantitative assessment, based on field observations, of the degree of regional differentiation in Southern Ocean food webs and the relative importance of alternative energy pathways between regions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:food webs, Southern Ocean, ecosystem management, food web structure, network analysis
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology)
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - wild caught
Objective Field:Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:McCormack, SA (Dr Stacey McCormack)
UTAS Author:Melbourne-Thomas, J (Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas)
UTAS Author:Trebilco, R (Dr Rowan Trebilco)
UTAS Author:Blanchard, JL (Professor Julia Blanchard)
UTAS Author:Raymond, B (Dr Ben Raymond)
UTAS Author:Constable, A (Dr Andrew Constable)
ID Code:143766
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2021-03-31
Last Modified:2021-10-11
Downloads:19 View Download Statistics

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