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The Importance of Temporal Resolution in Food Web Analysis: Evidence from a Detritus-Based Stream

Annette F. Tavares-Cromar and D. Dudley Williams
Ecological Monographs
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 91-113
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2963482
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2963482
Page Count: 31
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The Importance of Temporal Resolution in Food Web Analysis: Evidence from a Detritus-Based Stream
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Abstract

A series of time-specific food webs for the macroinvertebrate riffle community of Duffin Creek, Ontario was constructed using dietary information obtained from the analysis of gut contents. Trophic links were quantified using a dietary index of relative importance. Precision of the analysis was maintained at a high level by: (1) identifying dietary items as accurately as possible via direct gut analysis; (2) identifying web members to the species level, thus avoiding the taxonomic aggregation and lumping of size classes common in food web analyses; and (3) ensuring temporal resolution of the web by determining ontogenic variation in the diets of dominant members of the community. The Duffin Creek webs are heavily detritus-based with a large proportion of top-to-basal, and intermediate-to-basal links. Top-to-basal links, proportions of top and intermediate species, and lower connectance (0.180-0.219) varied temporally. Trophic connectance ranged from 0.090 to 0.109, consistent with values expected for a web consisting largely of specialist feeders. Weak links made up the largest proportion of total links in the webs, whereas very strong links made up the smallest proportion. Omnivory was more common than indicated in other webs and can be attributed to ontogenic diet switching. Comparison of the statistics for a summary web with those generated for the time-specific webs indicated that the total number of links per web, total number of species, number of top and intermediate species, and linkage density were much greater for the summary web. In view of these differences, the importance of temporal resolution when assessing food web structure and dynamics is emphasized. The possibility that some of the observed features in our web are common to other detritus-based webs is considered. Future studies of this calibre are justified.

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