Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects

Department

Biology

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Food webs and matrices are vital to understanding feeding relationships and ecology. Adjacency matrices can be employed to present the direct relationships between predators and prey; these binary matrices utilize 0’s to denote no direct link and 1’s to denote a direct link. We analyzed a variety of published food webs ranging from pine forests in the United States to tussock grasslands in New Zealand. The food webs varied in number of distinguishable taxa present, functional diversity, climates and habitats. Consequently, we expect that our results are not specific to a given system. The published food webs lack flows from organisms to detritus despite the fact that organisms in these webs consume detritus. This discrepancy leads us to question how the inclusion of flows to detritus influences indirect connectance within large food webs. By including the flows to detritus, the number of indirect paths of length n as well as indirect relationships throughout the systems increased. Null model simulations were compared to detrital models in power series and eigen analysis. Pathway proliferation was found in all simulations with detrital models exhibiting greater potential indirect paths and detritus contributing greatly to energetic cycling by serving as energy storage to dead and decaying organic matter in ecosystems.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Albert Meier

Disciplines

Animal Sciences | Biodiversity | Systems Biology

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