Hoeinghaus, David Joseph (2006-12). Food web architecture in natural and impounded rivers of the Upper Parana drainage basin, Brazil. Doctoral Dissertation.
Freshwater ecosystems are some of the most threatened on the planet. Efforts to conserve, restore, or otherwise manage large rivers and the services they provide are hindered by limited understanding of the functional dynamics of these systems. This shortcoming is especially evident with regard to trophic structure and energy flow. In this study I use natural abundances of carbon and nitrogen isotopes to examine patterns of energy flow and food-chain length of large-river food webs characterized by different landscape-scale hydrologic features. Ten locations along an approximately 500 km stretch of the Upper Paran???? River Basin, Brazil, provided the setting for this work. Carbon derived from C3 plants and phytoplankton were the dominant energy sources across all webs, but relative contributions differed among landscape types (low-gradient river, high-gradient river, river stretches downstream of reservoirs, and reservoirs). Increases in food chain length corresponded with higher relative importance of phytoplankton derived carbon, likely due to size-structured effects of the phytoplankton-zooplankton-secondary consumer trophic link. River impoundment corresponded with decreased ecological and economic efficiency of fisheries production, an important ecosystem service provided by many tropical rivers.