Identifying patterns in the multitrophic community and food-web structure of a low-turbidity temperate estuarine bay

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 6;10(1):16637. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-73628-6.


Food web dynamics outline the ecosystem processes that regulate community structure. Challenges in the approaches used to capture topological descriptions of food webs arise due to the difficulties in collecting extensive empirical data with temporal and spatial variations in community structure and predator-prey interactions. Here, we use a Kohonen self-organizing map algorithm (as a measure of community pattern) and stable isotope-mixing models (as a measure of trophic interaction) to identify food web patterns across a low-turbidity water channel of a temperate estuarine-coastal continuum. We find a spatial difference in the patterns of community compositions between the estuarine and deep-bay channels and a seasonal difference in the plankton pattern but less in the macrobenthos and nekton communities. Dietary mixing models of co-occurring dominant taxa reveal site-specific but unchanging food web topologies and the prominent role of phytoplankton in the trophic base of pelagic and prevalent-detrital benthic pathways. Our approach provides realistic frameworks for linking key nodes from producers to predators in trophic networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bays*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Food Chain*
  • Phytoplankton / physiology*
  • Plankton / physiology*
  • Rivers
  • Seasons