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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 512:141-154 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10885

Reaction of an estuarine food web to disturbance: Lindeman’s perspective

Nathalie Niquil1,*, Alexandra Baeta2, João Carlos Marques2, Aurélie Chaalali1, Jérémy Lobry3, Joana Patrício4

1CNRS, UMR 7208 BOREA, FRE 3484 BIOMEA, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, IBFA, Esplanade de la Paix, CS 14032,
14032 Caen Cedex 5, France
2IMAR - Institute of Marine Research, Marine and Environmental Research Centre (IMAR-CMA), c/o Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal
3Irstea, groupement de Bordeaux, 50 avenue de Verdun-Gazinet, 33612 Cestas, France
4European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, 21027 Ispra, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Currently, a central demand of coastal and marine food web researchers is the search for holistic and functional ecosystem health indicators. Based on concepts directly derived from R. L. Lindeman’s work (Lindeman 1942; Ecology 23:399–418), 6 estuarine food web models were analysed to assess the potential impact of multiple disturbances on the trophic state of food webs. The models described a Zostera noltii meadow and a bare sediment site in the Mondego estuary, Portugal, during 3 distinct time periods corresponding to (1) nutrient enrichment, (2) the implementation of mitigation measures, and (3) after a centenary flood. We tested 4 candidate metrics, directly derived from the trophic-dynamic concepts proposed by Lindeman (1942): food chain length, the detritivory/herbivory ratio, trophic efficiency per trophic level and mean trophic efficiency. Based on this case study, none of the metrics are yet ready to be used per se as operational metrics to quantify and interpret the impact of disturbances on the ecosystem’s trophic state. Trophic efficiency appeared to be sensitive to external pressures. However, the mean trophic efficiency of the system might not be sufficient to draw conclusions about the trophic efficiency of the ecosystem: trophic efficiency should be observed at the trophic level in order to better understand cascading effects within food webs.


KEY WORDS: Ecosystem function· Food web models · Ecological network analysis · Trophic efficiency · Ecological indicator · Mondego estuary


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Cite this article as: Niquil N, Baeta A, Marques JC, Chaalali A, Lobry J, Patrício J (2014) Reaction of an estuarine food web to disturbance: Lindeman’s perspective. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 512:141-154. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10885

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