Seeing double: size-based versus taxonomic views of food web structure

Gilljam, David; Thierry, Aaron; Edwards, Francois K.; Figueroa, David; Ibbotson, Anton T.; Jones, J. Iwan; Lauridsen, Rasmus B.; Petchey, Owen L.; Woodward, Guy; Ebenman, Bo. 2011 Seeing double: size-based versus taxonomic views of food web structure. Advances in Ecological Research, 45. 67-133.

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Here, we investigate patterns in the size structure of one marine and six freshwater foodwebs: that is, how the trophic structure of such ecological networks is governed by the body size of its interacting entities. The data for these food webs are interactions between individuals, including the taxonomic identity and body mass of the prey and the predator. Using these detailed data, we describe how patterns grouped into three sets of response variables: (i) trophic orderings; (ii) diet variation; and (iii) predator variation, scales with the body mass of predators or prey, using both a species- and a size-class-based approach. We also compare patterns of size structure derived from analysis of individual-based data with those patterns that result when data are ‘‘aggregated’’ into species (or size class-based) averages.This comparison shows that analysis based on species averaging can obscure interesting patterns in the size structure of ecological communities. Specifically, we found that the slope of prey body mass as a function of predator body mass was consistently underestimated and the slope of predator–prey bodymass ratio (PPMR) as a function of predator bodymass was overestimated, when species averages were used instead of the individuallevel data. In some cases, no relationship was found when species averageswere used, but when individual-level data were used instead, clear and significant patterns were revealed. Further, when data were grouped into size classes, the slope of the prey bodymass as a function of predator bodymasswas smaller and the slope of the PPMR relationship was greater compared to what was found using species-aggregated data.Wealso discuss potential sampling effects arising from size-class-based approaches, which are not always seen in taxonomical approaches. These results have potentially important implications for parameterisation of models of ecological communities and hence for predictions concerning the dynamics of ecological communities and their response to different kinds of disturbances.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 2 - Ecohydrological Processes > WA - 2.4 - Quantify the importance of food web structure and trophic interactions ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISBN: 9780123864758
ISSN: 0065-2504
Additional Keywords: aggregation, allometry, dynamics, food web, individual size distributions, predation, resolution, size classes, size structure, taxonomic identity, trophic relationships
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 19 Oct 2011 14:12 +0 (UTC)

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