Food web structure in a tropical stream ecosystem
Austral Ecology. Carlton: Blackwell Publishing Asia, v. 30, n. 1, p. 58-73, 2005.
Motta, R. L.
Uieda, Virginia Sanches
This study investigated the structure and properties of a tropical stream food web in a small spatial scale, characterizing its planktonic, epiphytic and benthic compartments. The study was carried out in the Potreirinho Creek, a second-order stream located in the south-east of Brazil. Some attributes of the three subwebs and of the conglomerate food web, composed by the trophic links of the three compartments plus the fish species, were determined. Among compartments, the food webs showed considerable variation in structure. The epiphytic food web was consistently more complex than the planktonic and benthic webs. The values of number of species, number of links and maximum food chain length were significantly higher in the epiphytic compartment than in the other two. Otherwise, the connectance was significantly lower in epiphyton. The significant differences of most food web parameters were determined by the increase in the number of trophic species, represented mainly by basal and intermediate species. High species richness, detritus-based system and high degree of omnivory characterized the stream food web studied. The aquatic macrophytes probably provide a substratum more stable and structurally complex than the sediment. We suggest that the greater species richness and trophic complexity in the epiphytic subweb might be due to the higher degree of habitat complexity supported by macrophyte substrate. Despite differences observed in the structure of the three subwebs, they are highly connected by trophic interactions, mainly by fishes. The high degree of fish omnivory associated with their movements at different spatial scales suggests that these animals have a significant role in the food web dynamic of Potreirinho Creek. This interface between macrophytes and the interconnections resultant from fish foraging, diluted the compartmentalization of the Potreirinho food web.