Kalendarium

The influence of trophic polymorphisms on habitat coupling in aquatic food webs

  • Datum: 2017-04-07 kl 09:15
  • Plats: Friessalen, Evolutionsbiologiskt centrum (EBC), Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala
  • Föreläsare: Marklund, Maria H. K.
  • Webbsida
  • Arrangör: Limnologi
  • Kontaktperson: Marklund, Maria H. K.
  • Disputation

In this thesis, by using field studies and an experimental study, my aim was to assess the individual specialisation displayed by Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) and its influence on the ability of the perch to couple habitats.

Trophic cascades, together with other indirect interactions are important aspects in shaping the composition and abundance of species in the food web. Theoretically, movement of energy between systems, and coupling between habitats by mobile predators have been suggested as being important for food web stability and evenness. Individual diet specialisations have been shown to be widespread in many animal taxa. Although not widely studied, some studies have indicated that mobile predators that display individual specialisations, may have a reduced ability to couple habitats.

In this thesis, by using field studies and an experimental study, my aim was to assess the individual specialisation displayed by Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) and its influence on the ability of the perch to couple habitats. In the experiment, we also investigated the effect of habitat coupling, or the lack of habitat coupling, on the dynamics and stability of the resources in the ecosystem.

We show that habitat diversity and resource availability influenced perch individual specialisation and morphological variation. We found that the perch total niche width decreased with decreasing habitat switching ability. We demonstrate asymmetrical habitat coupling ability in perch across pelagic and littoral habitats, providing evidence that not all individuals within a species respond in the same way when it comes to spatial coupling and thereby providing stability within a food web.

Our results expand on previous work and suggest that habitat coupling ability can influence individual specialisations and niche width. Furthermore, we show the importance of individual specialisations in relation to habitat coupling. Finally, we provide evidence for the theory that a food web dominated by a food specialist should exhibit more variable resource dynamics than a food web dominated by a generalist predator by showing a greater indirect effect of predation on the phytoplankton levels when no habitat coupling occurs. While many models and theoretical concepts have proposed a stabilising effect of cross movement of energy and mobile predators, little empirical evidence exists that confirms this mechanism.

In conclusion, my thesis gives some support for the theoretical predictions that habitats coupled by a generalist predator should be more stable.