Studies of ecosystem functions are gaining traction in the scientific community along with a growing consensus that losses in ecosystem functions have widespread consequences. Food webs, which are networks comprising all trophic interactions (represented by links) between taxa present in a community (represented by nodes), are important aspects of ecosystem functioning, yet a clear understanding of the factors and mechanisms influencing their assembly and structure is lacking. In our study, we addressed this fundamental question by investigating the respective roles of (1) environmental filtering and (2) biotic filtering, in governing food web structure. We did this by assessing the relationship between the network structure of five high-resolution empirical tropical food webs and associated environmental and biotic covariates. Our data suggest that only environmental filtering is important in shaping food webs. Further, we found that the underlying ecological mechanism is a function of bottom-up influences comprising resource levels, and to a lesser degree, resource type (i.e., terrestrial organic matter) available. Specifically, our data suggest high-nutrient environments favor greater food web complexity. In the general context of community assembly, our findings add to existing knowledge of the process by demonstrating that environmental conditions previously shown to influence species assemblages can also drive trends in prevailing species interactions.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Limnology and Oceanography|
|Early online date||25 Apr 2018|
|Publication status||Published - Sept 2018|