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Effects of trophic similarity on community composition

Morlon H, Kefi S, Martinez ND.

Understanding how ecological processes determine patterns among species coexisting within ecosystems is central to ecology. Here, we explore relationships between species’ local coexistence and their trophic niches in terms of their feeding relationships both as consumers and as resources. We build on recent concepts and methods from community phylogenetics to develop a framework for analysing mechanisms responsible for community composition using trophic similarity among species and null models of community assembly. We apply this framework to 50 food webs found in 50 Adirondack lakes and find that species composition in these communities appears to be driven by both bottom-up effects by which the presence of prey species selects for predators of those prey, and top-down effects by which prey more tolerant of predation out-compete less tolerant prey of the same predators. This approach to community food webs is broadly applicable and shows how species interaction networks can inform an increasingly large array of theory central to community ecology.

Ecol Lett. 2014 Dec ;17(12):1495-506. doi : 10.1111/ele.12356. Epub 2014 Oct 7.