Omnivory and opportunism characterize food webs in a large dry-tropics river system

Blanchette, Melanie L., Davis, Aaron M., Jardine, Timothy D., and Pearson, Richard G. (2014) Omnivory and opportunism characterize food webs in a large dry-tropics river system. Freshwater science, 33 (1). pp. 142-158.

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We analyzed basal sources, trophic levels, and connectance in dry-season food webs on 4 rivers in the upper Burdekin catchment in the dry tropics of northeastern Australia. The region is characterized by episodic summer rainfall, and most of the annual river flow occurs in a short period. In the dry season, rivers typically contract into a series of water holes of varying permanence and hydrologic connectivity. We used stable-isotope and stomach-content analyses to identify trophic levels of macroinvertebrates and fish, and we used a mixing model (SIAR) to identify foodweb basal sources at each site. We found substantial variability among sites in basal-source contributions, trophic position of individual taxa, and foodweb structure, and sites from the same river often were as different as sites from different rivers. Important basal sources at different sites included allochthonous tree litter, autochthonous algae and macrophytes, and Fe-fixing bacteria. Many relationships between consumers and basal sources were not resolved in the mixing model, mainly because of extensive omnivory or isotopic overlap among sources. Nevertheless, our results show high variability of dry-tropics river communities that extends beyond previously described macroinvertebrate assemblages to the broader food web. However, the main components of the upper trophic levels were similar across sites, such that different lower trophic levels supported similar assemblages of top consumers. These tropical rivers were defined by omnivory and ecological opportunism, which may be adaptations to seasonal hydrological variability.

Item ID: 32913
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2161-9565
Keywords: tropical rivers, food webs, omnivory, stable isotopes, macroinvertebrates, fish, connectance, Burdekin
Funders: Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF), James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:55
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 100%
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