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An innovative statistical approach to constructing a readily comprehensible food web for a demersal fish community

French, B., Clarke, K.R., Platell, M.E. and Potter, I.C. (2013) An innovative statistical approach to constructing a readily comprehensible food web for a demersal fish community. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 125 . pp. 43-56.

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Many food webs are so complex that it is difficult to distinguish the relationships between predators and their prey. We have therefore developed an approach that produces a food web which clearly demonstrates the strengths of the relationships between the predator guilds of demersal fish and their prey guilds in a coastal ecosystem. Subjecting volumetric dietary data for 35 abundant predators along the lower western Australia coast to cluster analysis and the SIMPROF routine separated the various species × length class combinations into 14 discrete predator guilds. Following nMDS ordination, the sequence of points for these predator guilds represented a 'trophic' hierarchy. This demonstrated that, with increasing body size, several species progressed upwards through this hierarchy, reflecting a marked change in diet, whereas others remained within the same guild. A novel use of cluster analysis and SIMPROF then identified each group of prey that was ingested in a common pattern across the full suite of predator guilds. This produced 12 discrete groups of taxa (prey guilds) that each typically comprised similar ecological/functional prey, which were then also aligned in a hierarchy. The hierarchical arrangements of the predator and prey guilds were plotted against each other to show the percentage contribution of each prey guild to the diet of each predator guild. The resultant shade plot demonstrates quantitatively how food resources are spread among the fish species and revealed that two prey guilds, one containing cephalopods and teleosts and the other small benthic/epibenthic crustaceans and polychaetes, were consumed by all predator guilds.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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