Browsing by Subject "food web"

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  • Abrego, Nerea; Roslin, Tomas; Huotari, Tea; Ji, Yinqiu; Schmidt, Niels Martin; Wang, Jiaxin; Yu, Douglas W.; Ovaskainen, Otso (2021)
    Species interactions are known to structure ecological communities. Still, the influence of climate change on biodiversity has primarily been evaluated by correlating individual species distributions with local climatic descriptors, then extrapolating into future climate scenarios. We ask whether predictions on arctic arthropod response to climate change can be improved by accounting for species interactions. For this, we use a 14-year-long, weekly time series from Greenland, resolved to the species level by mitogenome mapping. During the study period, temperature increased by 2 degrees C and arthropod species richness halved. We show that with abiotic variables alone, we are essentially unable to predict species responses, but with species interactions included, the predictive power of the models improves considerably. Cascading trophic effects thereby emerge as important in structuring biodiversity response to climate change. Given the need to scale up from species-level to community-level projections of biodiversity change, these results represent a major step forward for predictive ecology.
  • Rolls, Robert J.; Hayden, Brian; Kahilainen, Kimmo K. (2017)
    Climate change and species invasions represent key threats to global biodiversity. Subarctic freshwaters are sentinels for understanding both stressors because the effects of climate change are disproportionately strong at high latitudes and invasion of temperate species is prevalent. Here, we summarize the environmental effects of climate change and illustrate the ecological responses of freshwater fishes to these effects, spanning individual, population, community and ecosystem levels. Climate change is modifying hydrological cycles across atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic components of subarctic ecosystems, causing increases in ambient water temperature and nutrient availability. These changes affect the individual behavior, habitat use, growth and metabolism, alter population spawning and recruitment dynamics, leading to changes in species abundance and distribution, modify food web structure, trophic interactions and energy flow within communities and change the sources, quantity and quality of energy and nutrients in ecosystems. Increases in temperature and its variability in aquatic environments underpin many ecological responses; however, altered hydrological regimes, increasing nutrient inputs and shortened ice cover are also important drivers of climate change effects and likely contribute to context-dependent responses. Species invasions are a complex aspect of the ecology of climate change because the phenomena of invasion are both an effect and a driver of the ecological consequences of climate change. Using subarctic freshwaters as an example, we illustrate how climate change can alter three distinct aspects of species invasions: (1) the vulnerability of ecosystems to be invaded, (2) the potential for species to spread and invade new habitats, and (3) the subsequent ecological effects of invaders. We identify three fundamental knowledge gaps focused on the need to determine (1) how environmental and landscape characteristics influence the ecological impact of climate change, (2) the separate and combined effects of climate and non-native invading species and (3) the underlying ecological processes or mechanisms responsible for changes in patterns of biodiversity.
  • Frelat, Romain; Kortsch, Susanne; Kroencke, Ingrid; Neumann, Hermann; Nordstroem, Marie C.; Olivier, Pierre E. N.; Sell, Anne F. (2022)
    Ecological communities are constantly changing as a response to environmental and anthropogenic pressures. Yet, how changes in community composition influence the structure of food webs over time and space remains elusive. Using ecological network analysis, we assessed how food web structure changed across six distinct areas of the North Sea over a sixteen-year time-period. We used multivariate analyses to disentangle and compare spatio-temporal dynamics in community composition (i.e. changes in species abundances) and food web structure (i.e. changes in network properties). Specifically, we assessed how changes in community composition were reflected in food web structure. Our results revealed a strong spatial coupling between community composition and food web structure along a south-north gradient. However, the temporal covariation between community composition and food web structure depended on the spatial scale. We observed a temporal mismatch at regional scale, but a strong coupling at local scale. In particular, we found that community composition can be influenced by hydro-climatic events over large areas, with diverse effects manifesting in local food web structure. Our proposed methodological framework quantified and compared spatio-temporal changes in community composition and food web structure, providing key information to support effective management strategies aimed at conserving the structure and functioning of ecological communities in times of environmental change.
  • Kangas, Jonna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2022)
    Climate change is expected to cause salinity change in the Baltic Sea and therefore may affect organisms living in the Baltic such as plankton. The microbial loop is an important part of the plankton food web. It consists of heterotrophic bacteria, nanoflagellates and ciliates and is connected with the classic plankton food chain through interactions with primary producers and mesozooplankton. Therefore, salinity affects the functioning of the microbial food web not only directly, but also through salinity induced changes on primary producers and mesozooplankton. In this master’s thesis I studied the effects of salinity change on microbial loop components bacteria, nanoflagellates and ciliates in an outdoor mesocosm experiment containing four salinity treatments with salinities of 3.5, 5.5, 7.5 and 9.5, three replicas each. The experiment took place offshore at the Tvärminne Zoological Station. Bacteria were sampled from the mesocosms every other day and nanoflagellates and ciliates every 6th day. Bacteria were analysed with the flow cytometer, nanoflagellates with epifluorescent microscopy and ciliates using an inverted microscope. The effects of salinity on microbial loop components were statistically tested using linear mixed effects models. Results of the experiment show that salinity had an indirect effect on microbial loop components through changes in mesozooplankton composition. There were significant differences between high and low salinity treatments in bacteria abundance and composition, the interaction strength between HNFs and bacteria and in the mean cell size of ciliate communities. These were mainly caused by differences in mesozooplankton community structure between salinity treatments, which had cascading effects on the strength of top-down and bottom-up control on the trophic levels of the microbial loop, leading to changes in bacteria abundances and composition. Based on the results of this thesis, more studies are needed to detect the effects that changes in the composition and functioning of the microbial loop might have on the ecosystem. Further research should also focus on the significance of the structure and diversity of the communities within the microbial loop as well as the functional roles of different species in the microbial food web.
  • Kaunisto, Kari M.; Roslin, Tomas; Sääksjärvi, Ilari E.; Vesterinen, Eero J. (2017)
    Recent advances in molecular techniques allow us to resolve the diet of unstudied taxa. Odonates are potentially important top-down regulators of many insects. Yet, to date, our knowledge of odonate prey use is based mainly on limited observations of odonates catching or eating their prey. In this study, we examine the potential use of metabarcoding in establishing the diet of three adult odonate species (Lestes sponsa, Enallagma cyathigerum, and Sympetrum danae) at a site in southwestern Finland. To this purpose, we compared three different methods for extracting DNA from fecal samples: the Macherey-Nagel Nucleospin XS kit, a traditional salt extraction, and the Zymo Research Fecal Microprep kit. From these extracts, we amplified group-specific mitochondrial markers (COI and 16S rRNA) from altogether 72 odonate individuals, and compared them to comprehensive reference libraries. The three odonate species show major overlap in diet, with no significant differences between individuals of different size and/or gender, reflecting opportunistic foraging of adult odonates. Of a total of 41 different prey species detected, the most frequently consumed ones were Diptera, with additional records of six other orders. Based on our data, the best DNA extraction method is the traditional salt extraction, as it provides the most information on prey content while also being the most economical. To our knowledge, this is the first study to resolve the species-level diet of adult odonates. Armed with the appropriate methodological caveats, we are ready to examine the ecological role of odonates in both terrestrial and aquatic food webs, and in transferring subsidies between these two realms.
  • Llewelyn, John; Strona, Giovanni; McDowell, Matthew C.; Johnson, Christopher N.; Peters, Katharina J.; Stouffer, Daniel B.; de Visser, Sara N.; Saltre, Frederik; Bradshaw, Corey J. A. (2022)
    Extinctions stemming from environmental change often trigger trophic cascades and coextinctions. Bottom-up cascades occur when changes in the primary producers in a network elicit flow-on effects to higher trophic levels. However, it remains unclear what determines a species' vulnerability to bottom-up cascades and whether such cascades were a large contributor to the megafauna extinctions that swept across several continents in the Late Pleistocene. The pathways to megafauna extinctions are particularly unclear for Sahul (landmass comprising Australia and New Guinea), where extinctions happened earlier than on other continents. We investigated the potential role of bottom-up trophic cascades in the megafauna extinctions in Late Pleistocene Sahul by first developing synthetic networks that varied in topology to identify how network position (trophic level, diet breadth, basal connections) influences vulnerability to bottom-up cascades. We then constructed pre-extinction (-80 ka) network models of the ecological community of Naracoorte, south-eastern Sahul, to assess whether the observed megafauna extinctions could be explained by bottom-up cascades. Synthetic networks showed that node vulnerability to bottom-up cascades decreased with increasing trophic level, diet breadth and basal connections. Extinct species in the Naracoorte community were more vulnerable overall to these cascades than were species that survived. The position of extinct species in the network - tending to be of low trophic level and therefore having relatively narrow diet breadths and fewer connections to plants - made them vulnerable. However, these species also tended to have few or no predators, a network-position attribute that suggests they might have been particularly vulnerable to new predators. Together, these results suggest that trophic cascades and naivety to predators could have contributed to the megafauna extinction event in Sahul.
  • McLeod, Anne; Leroux, Shawn J.; Gravel, Dominique; Chu, Cindy; Cirtwill, Alyssa R.; Fortin, Marie-Josee; Galiana, Nuria; Poisot, Timothee; Wood, Spencer A. (2021)
    Collecting well-resolved empirical trophic networks requires significant time, money and expertise, yet we are still lacking knowledge on how sampling effort and bias impact the estimation of network structure. Filling this gap is a critical first step towards creating accurate representations of ecological networks and for teasing apart the impact of sampling compared to ecological and evolutionary processes that are known to create spatio-temporal variation in network structure. We use a well-sampled spatial dataset of lake food webs to examine how sample effort influences network structure. Specifically, we predict asymptotic network properties (ANPs) for our dataset by comparing lake-specific network metrics with increasing sampling effort. We then contrast three sampling strategies - random, smallest lake to largest lake or largest lake to smallest lake - to assess which strategy best captures the regional metaweb (i.e. network of all potential interactions) network properties. We demonstrate metric-specific relationships between sample effort and network metrics, often diverging from the ANPs. For example, low sample effort can contribute to much lower and poorer estimates of closeness centralization, as compared to approximations of modularity with similar sample efforts. In fact, many network metrics (e.g. connectance) have a quadratic relationship with sample effort indicating a sampling 'sweet spot', which represents optimal sample effort for a close approximation of the ANP. Further, we find that sampling larger lakes followed by smaller lakes is a more optimal sampling strategy for capturing metaweb properties in this lentic ecosystem. Overall, we provide clear ways to better understand the impacts of sampling bias in food-web studies which may be particularly critical given the rapid increase in studies comparing food webs across space and time.
  • Taipale, Sami Johan; Kahilainen, Kimmo Kalevi; Holtgrieve, Gordon William; Peltomaa, Elina Talvikki (2018)
    The first few months of life is the most vulnerable period for fish and their optimal hatching time with zooplankton prey is favored by natural selection. Traditionally, however, prey abundance (i.e., zooplankton density) has been considered important, whereas prey nutritional composition has been largely neglected in natural settings. High-quality zooplankton, rich in both essential amino acids (EAAs) and fatty acids (FAs), are required as starting prey to initiate development and fast juvenile growth. Prey quality is dependent on environmental conditions, and, for example, eutrophication and browning are two major factors defining primary producer community structures that will directly determine the nutritional quality of the basal food sources (algae, bacteria, terrestrial matter) for zooplankton. We experimentally tested how eutrophication and browning affect the growth and survival of juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) by changing the quality of basal resources. We fed the fish on herbivorous zooplankton (Daphnia) grown with foods of different nutritional quality (algae, bacteria, terrestrial matter), and used GC-MS, stable isotope labeling as well as bulk and compound-specific stable isotope analyses for detecting the effects of different diets on the nutritional status of fish. The content of EAAs and omega-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated FAs (PUFAs) in basal foods and zooplankton decreased in both eutrophication and browning treatments. The decrease in ω-3 PUFA and especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was reflected to fish juveniles, but they were able to compensate for low availability of EAAs in their food. Therefore, the reduced growth and survival of the juvenile fish was linked to the low availability of DHA. Fish showed very low ability to convert alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA. We conclude that eutrophication and browning decrease the availability of the originally phytoplankton-derived DHA for zooplankton and juvenile fish, suggesting bottom-up regulation of food web quality.
  • Mattila, Bernd-Niklas (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Cladocerans play a key role in the aquatic ecosystem. They are abundant in lakes and are an essential part in the carbon and energy transfer of the food webs. These species are, however, prone to various environmental changes. Estimates have shown that dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations in northern lakes are likely to increase in the future. This increase of DOC in lakes has multiple impacts ranging from nutrient levels to shading impacts reducing primary productions. Investigating changes in cladocerans along a DOC gradient could help us understand how these species might develop in the future in our changing climate. In this Master’s Thesis, I studied how the cladoceran body length and community structure varied between 9 lakes with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration ranging from 2.4-33.5 mg l-1. For the analyses, these lakes where divided into two groups with a threshold of 12 mg l-1 or into groups of three based on their DOC concentrations. Then, the results were compared with cladoceran length data from an earlier study. Additionally, the changes in phytoplankton abundances and communities as well as the relation between DOC concentration and other environmental variables were analysed. The results showed an increase in the cladoceran body length above the DOC threshold. Moreover, the changes in body length varied between the studied genera. Both Ceriodaphnia sp. and Diaphanosoma sp. body length decreased in groups with higher DOC concentrations while Bosmina sp. were larger at high DOC concentrations. DOC concentration did not have any significant effect on the community structure of zooplankton. The studied lakes varied from their environmental condition making comparisons and general statements challenging. The results indicated that DOC concentration regulates the planktonic communities, but it is solely an imprecise predictor for changes in zooplankton communities. However, cladoceran densities seemed to benefit from increased DOC concentrations as nutrient levels also increased. Changes in cladoceran body lengths were challenging to interpret, because there are multiple factors that can have an impact both alone and combined with others.
  • Kaunisto, Kari M; Roslin, Tomas; Forbes, Mark; Morrill, Andre; Sääksjärvi, Ilari Eerikki; Puisto, Anna; Lilley, Thomas; Vesterinen, Eero (2020)
    To understand the diversity and strength of predation in natural communities, researchers must quantify the total amount of prey species in the diet of predators. Metabarcoding approaches have allowed widespread characterization of predator diets with high taxonomic resolution. To determine the wider impacts of predators, researchers should combine DNA techniques with estimates of population size of predators using mark–release–recapture (MRR) methods, and with accurate metrics of food consumption by individuals. Herein, we estimate the scale of predation exerted by four damselfly species on diverse prey taxa within a well‐defined 12‐ha study area, resolving the prey species of individual damselflies, to what extent the diets of predatory species overlap, and which fraction of the main prey populations are consumed. We identify the taxonomic composition of diets using DNA metabarcoding and quantify damselfly population sizes by MRR. We also use predator‐specific estimates of consumption rates, and independent data on prey emergence rates to estimate the collective predation pressure summed over all prey taxa and specific to their main prey (non‐biting midges or chironomids) of the four damselfly species. The four damselfly species collectively consumed a prey mass equivalent to roughly 870 (95% CL 410–1,800) g, over 2 months. Each individual consumed 29%–66% (95% CL 9.4–123) of its body weight during its relatively short life span (2.1–4.7 days; 95% CL 0.74–7.9) in the focal population. This predation pressure was widely distributed across the local invertebrate prey community, including 4 classes, 19 orders and c. 140 genera. Different predator species showed extensive overlap in diets, with an average of 30% of prey shared by at least two predator species. Of the available prey individuals in the widely consumed family Chironomidae, only a relatively small proportion (0.76%; 95% CL 0.35%–1.61%) were consumed. Our synthesis of population sizes, per‐capita consumption rates and taxonomic distribution of diets identifies damselflies as a comparatively minor predator group of aerial insects. As the next step, we should add estimates of predation by larger odonate species, and experimental removal of odonates, thereby establishing the full impact of odonate predation on prey communities.