The Importance of Intermediate Predators for Food Web Dynamics and Ecosystem Functioning

Intermediate Predators: Food Web Dynamics & Ecosystem Functioning

The Importance of Intermediate Predators for Food Web Dynamics and Ecosystem Functioning

Researcher: Eoin O’Gorman

Telephone: 021 4901944

Project Description

Funding Body: IRCSET
Programme: IRCSET
Project type: PhD
Period: October 2005 – October 2008

Most ecosystems on the planet have been altered in some way by anthropogenic effects. The rich biodiversity of our coastal waters, in particular, is under threat from commercial fishing and industrial development. It is vital that we understand the processes and consequences of continued simplification of this environment if we are to limit such anthropogenic effects. Small gobies, wrasse, crabs, starfish and shrimp are important species in coastal ecosystems, acting as intermediate predators to transfer energy from lower trophic levels to commercially important fish species. This study uses a series of large benthic cages in a marine lake, Lough Hyne in West Cork, to create a gradient of predator diversity. I examine the effect of reduced predator diversity on community assembly and important measures of ecosystem functioning, e.g. primary and secondary production and decomposition. I also aim to integrate the use of empirical and theoretical approaches by comparing the findings of my fieldwork with theoretical predictions obtained using a Lotka-Volterra modelling framework. These theoretical studies will investigate the effects of altered food web complexity for a range of ecosystem processes and individual species responses. This work will help further our understanding of the consequences of biodiversity loss.

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork