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A modified niche model for generating food webs with stage-structured consumers: The stabilizing effects of life-history stages on complex food webs
  • Etsuko Nonaka,
  • Anna Kuparinen
Etsuko Nonaka
University of Jyväskylä
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Anna Kuparinen
University of Jyväskylä
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1. Almost all organisms grow in size during their lifetime and switch diets, trophic positions, and interacting partners as they grow. Such ontogenetic development introduces life-history stages and flows of biomass between the stages through growth and reproduction. However, current research on complex food webs rarely considers life-history stages. The few previously proposed methods do not take full advantage of the existing food web structural models that can produce realistic food web topologies. 2. We extended the niche model by Williams & Martinez (2000) to generate food webs that included trophic species with a life-history stage structure. Our method aggregated trophic species based on niche overlap to form a life-history structured population; therefore, it largely preserved the topological structure of food webs generated by the niche model. We applied the theory of allometric predator-prey body mass ratio and parameterized an allometric bioenergetic model augmented with biomass flow between stages via growth and reproduction to study the effects of a stage structure on the stability of food webs. 3. When life-history stages were linked via growth and reproduction, fewer food webs persisted while persisting food webs tended to retain more trophic species. Topological differences between persisting linked and unlinked food webs were small to modest. Temporal variability of biomass dynamics and slopes of biomass spectra were lower in the linked food webs than the unlinked ones, suggesting that a life-history stage structure enhanced stability of complex food webs. 4. Our results suggest a positive relationship between the complexity and stability of complex food webs. A life-history stage structure in food webs may play important roles in dynamics of and diversity in food webs.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

08 Jan 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
09 Jan 2021Assigned to Editor
09 Jan 2021Submission Checks Completed
12 Jan 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
31 Jan 2021Editorial Decision: Accept