Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in evolving food webs

K. T. Allhoff and B. Drossel
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 371, 20150281, 2016.

We use computer simulations in order to study the interplay between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) during both the formation and the ongoing evolution of large food webs. A species in our model is characterized by its own body mass, its preferred prey body mass and the width of its potential prey body mass spectrum. On an ecological time scale, population dynamics determines which species are viable and which ones go extinct. On an evolutionary time scale, new species emerge as modifications of existing ones. The network structure thus emerges and evolves in a self-organized manner. We analyse the relation between functional diversity and five community level measures of ecosystem functioning. These are the metabolic loss of the predator community, the total biomasses of the basal and the predator community, and the consumption rates on the basal community and within the predator community. Clear BEF relations are observed during the initial build-up of the networks, or when parameters are varied, causing bottom-up or top-down effects. However, ecosystem functioning measures fluctuate only very little during long-term evolution under constant environmental conditions, despite changes in functional diversity. This result supports the hypothesis that trophic cascades are weaker in more complex food webs.

(fulltext link)
doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0281
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