Macroecological patterns and niche structure in a new marine food web

G. Yvon-Durocher, J.M. Montoya, Mark Emmerson, G. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


The integration of detailed information on feeding interactions with measures of abundance and body mass of individuals provides a powerful platform for understanding ecosystem organisation. Metabolism and, by proxy, body mass constrain the flux, turnover and storage of energy and biomass in food webs. Here, we present the first food web data for Lough Hyne, a species rich Irish Sea Lough. Through the application of individual-and size-based analysis of the abundance-body mass relationship, we tested predictions derived from the metabolic theory of ecology. We found that individual body mass constrained the flux of biomass and determined its distribution within the food web. Body mass was also an important determinant of diet width and niche overlap, and predator diets were nested hierarchically, such that diet width increased with body mass. We applied a novel measure of predator-prey biomass flux which revealed that most interactions in Lough Hyne were weak, whereas only a few were strong. Further, the patterning of interaction strength between prey sharing a common predator revealed that strong interactions were nearly always coupled with weak interactions. Our findings illustrate that important insights into the organisation, structure and stability of ecosystems can be achieved through the theoretical exploration of detailed empirical data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-103
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)

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