Food-Web Dynamics When Divergent Life-History Strategies Respond to Environmental Variation Differently: A Fisheries Ecology Perspective
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© Cambridge University Press 2018. Introduction The fundamental goal of food-web ecology is to understand essential ecosystem components, their features, and interactions such that predictions about dynamics can be made with reasonable precision and accuracy. The degree to which ecologists can be successful in this endeavor is critical for management of fisheries, invasive species, agricultural pests, infectious diseases, and a host of other ecological challenges. A frequently recognized, yet rarely addressed, challenge in food-web modeling is the diversity of responses to environmental variation by organisms with different combinations of functional traits, such as those that define life-history strategies. Spatial and temporal variation of influential environmental variables differentially affects recruitment and population dynamics of species having divergent life-history strategies. This, in turn, affects their interactions with resources and each other. This chapter briefly examines the relationship between life-history theory and food-web ecology, and then discusses how this relationship affects ecological applications using fisheries management as an example. Models that focus solely on networks of consumer–resource interactions without accounting for interspecific differences in responses to environmental variation cannot simulate real-world food-web dynamics. Individual-based models can simulate interactions among organisms with divergent traits as well as responses to environmental factors, and recently developed individual-based models have shown good potential for predicting food-web dynamics. Identification of manageable sets of influential functional traits is critical for success. Validation of individual-based models requires extensive empirical data at multiple hierarchy levels, ranging from individual to population, and spatio-temporal scales. This chapter briefly explores evidence for abiotic environmental mediation of population and trophic dynamics, and the potential for individual-based modeling approaches to simulate the dynamics of food webs supporting multispecies fisheries. Food-Web Paradigms Food-web ecology has progressed from crude descriptions toward modeling dynamics in complex systems. The basic food-web paradigm originated with descriptions of predator–prey networks (Camerano, 1880; Summerhayes and Elton, 1923), followed by estimates of productivity and energy assimilation within networks of functional groups (Lindeman, 1942). Although these depictions of food webs appear crude by today's standards, these works ushered in new perspectives in ecology that shifted lines of inquiry away from autecology with a focus on organismal responses to environmental gradients and patterns of species abundance and distribution, toward an emphasis on species interactions and local population dynamics.
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