From Biomass Towards Chemical Ecology: Progress and New Perspectives for the Study of Food Webs in Marine Ecosystems

Zupo, Valerio (2019). From Biomass Towards Chemical Ecology: Progress and New Perspectives for the Study of Food Webs in Marine Ecosystems. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001062d

Abstract

Changes of paradigms in the study of food webs in the last decades summarize a fast evolution of concepts: starting from a mechanistic vision of life, scientists recently approached to the emergent properties of ecosystems and started to investigate the informational functions of foods. The development of concepts is illustrated in this thesis by means of various papers, starting from a numerical evaluation of fluxes, moving then to biomasses and energy and approaching finally to several examples of “functional foods” influencing the ecology of key species in complex ecosystems. This exercise also permits comparison of the results with a model-based vision of ecosystems and the development of a general equation linking biodiversity with the availability of trophic resources. The equation, derived from mathematical analysis of networks, is proposed to be applicable to any network of organisms or cells, at various structural levels. It is based on an exponential decay function and it has been here tested on field data obtained in such different environments as a temperate harbour, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Results are encouraging, since a good fitting of the function to the experimental data has been demonstrated.

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