Food Webs: 2019 Research Report

Theme Coordinator: Paul McInerney


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Key outcomes:

For additional notes on each key outcome, please refer to the respective section numbers within the full report (provided further below).

  • The quality and quantity of food resources for consumers such as fish vary considerably among habitats and through time in response to flow variability (Section 2.1.3)
  • Floodplains support the generation of high concentrations of high quality food resources for consumers. The concentration of some essential fatty acids necessary for survival and growth of consumers were found in higher concentrations in the water column of wetlands and anabranches than in the river channel (Section 2.3.3)
  • While the importance of floodplain inundation is well known, our work suggests that reconnection of floodplain habitats to the main channel following the initial inundation may comprise an important management application. Floodplain river connectivity is important to: 1) mobilise high quality food resources to the main channel; and 2) to afford riverine consumers the opportunity to access to high quality resources by moving onto the floodplain. (Section 2.2.2)
  • It is important to recognise that bird species that primarily feed in surface waters (e.g. spoonbills) require different foraging habitat provision and management to species with more terrestrially reliant diets (e.g. ibis) (Section 2.3.3)
  • Essential fatty acids from green algae were traced through Food Webs from the bottom of the food web through to invertebrates and to fish (Section 2.4.3)
  • We show that hydrology can regulate basal of the food web by encouraging the growth of green algae and providing resources of high quality. Food quality is transferred through the food web and determines the response of higher order consumers, ultimately regulating the success of fish recruitment (Section 2.3.3 , Section 2.4.3)
  • We develop ed a trophic niche indicator that is useful to as sess how food resources for fish respond to the delivery of environmental flows. We show how a trophic niche indicator may be useful for assessing fish populations and determining if flow deliveries are benefiting fish recruitment and food web structure, ultimately leading to more productive populations of top predators (Section 2.5.3)
  • By targeting shifts in diet composition and producer quality, watering events can be designed to disproportionately benefit fish. Green algae have the potential for high production rates and can contribute a large proportion of the energy used by fish. For example, by focussing environmental watering activities on locations with food webs that are primarily fuelled by green algae in place of DOC, it may be possible to generate higher fish biomass (Section 2.4.3 , Section 2.6.3)

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