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MEPS - Vol. 413 - Feature article
Plankton communities dominated by taxa with different feeding preferences (e.g. copepods vs. ctenophores) have distinct food webs with different size structures and responses to nutrient inputs.
Photos: Wim van Egmond and David Wrobel.

Fuchs HL, Franks PJS

 

Plankton community properties determined by nutrients and size-selective feeding

 

Climate forcing affects plankton communities through changes in nutrient availability and zooplankton community composition. Fuchs and Franks used a size-structured model to show that different zooplankton feeding preferences can cause dramatically different plankton food-web structure, size structure, and biomass. Predator-prey size-ratio distributions defined two regime types with distinct ranges of percent omnivory, fraction of top predators, connectance, and size-spectral slope. Phytoplankton biomass sometimes decreased with added nutrients if predators were small relative to prey, implying that both predators and nutrients mediate shifts between bottom-up and top-down control. Food-web structure and size structure should be strongly affected by relative abundances of generalist, bloom-forming taxa such as salps and jellyfish.

 

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