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Productivity, disturbance and ecosystem size have no influence on food chain length in seasonally connected rivers

Citation

Warfe, DM and Jardine, TD and Pettit, NE and Hamilton, SK and Pusey, BJ and Bunn, SE and Davies, PM and Douglas, MM, Productivity, disturbance and ecosystem size have no influence on food chain length in seasonally connected rivers, Plos One, 8, (6) Article e66240. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]


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Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066240

Abstract

The food web is one of the oldest and most central organising concepts in ecology and for decades, food chain length has been hypothesised to be controlled by productivity, disturbance, and/or ecosystem size; each of which may be mediated by the functional trophic role of the top predator. We characterised aquatic food webs using carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes from 66 river and floodplain sites across the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia to determine the relative importance of productivity (indicated by nutrient concentrations), disturbance (indicated by hydrological isolation) and ecosystem size, and how they may be affected by food web architecture. We show that variation in food chain length was unrelated to these classic environmental determinants, and unrelated to the trophic role of the top predator. This finding is a striking exception to the literature and is the first published example of food chain length being unaffected by any of these determinants. We suggest the distinctive seasonal hydrology of northern Australia allows the movement of fish predators, linking isolated food webs and potentially creating a regional food web that overrides local effects of productivity, disturbance and ecosystem size. This finding supports ecological theory suggesting that mobile consumers promote more stable food webs. It also illustrates how food webs, and energy transfer, may function in the absence of the human modifications to landscape hydrological connectivity that are ubiquitous in more populated regions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Community Ecology
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Objective Field:Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments
Author:Warfe, DM (Dr Danielle Warfe)
ID Code:93662
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Biological Sciences
Deposited On:2014-08-12
Last Modified:2014-08-18
Downloads:170 View Download Statistics

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