University of Leicester
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Tri-trophic Plankton Models Revised: Importance of Space, Food Web Structure and Functional Response Parametrisation

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posted on 2017-03-20, 16:19 authored by H. I. Egilmez, A. Yu. Morozov
Revealing mechanisms of efficient top-down control in eutrophic ecosystems remains a long term challenge in theoretical ecology. In this paper, we revisit the role of environmental heterogeneity, food web structure and shape of the predator functional response in persistence and stabilization of a planktonic system with high nutrient supply. We consider a 1D vertically resolved tri-trophic planktonic food web composed of a primary producer, an intermediate predator and a highly mobile top predator, such as a system of phytoplankton, microzooplankton and copepods. We explore the realistic scenario in which the top predator is omnivorous, i.e. when copepods can feed both on phytoplankton and microzooplankton. We show that the interplay between heterogeneity of the environment due to for instance, a light gradient in the water column, and trophic interaction between species can result in an efficient top-down control which would otherwise be impossible in the corresponding well-mixed system. We also find that allowing the top predator to feed on the primary producer may dramatically impede the coexistence of the three trophic levels, with only two levels generally surviving. The coexistence of all three trophic levels within a wide range of parameters becomes possible only when the top predator exhibits active food source switching behaviour. We also show the phenomenon of bistability in the considered tri-trophic food web: a small initial amount of the top predator should lead to its extinction whereas introduction of a supercritical initial amount will eventually result in establishment of the population. The demonstrated mechanism of top-down control seems to be rather generic and might be a good candidate to explain stability in some other non-planktonic tri-trophic ecosystems.



Mathematical Modelling of Natural Phenomena, 2016, 11 (4), pp. 16-33 (18)

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Mathematics


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Mathematical Modelling of Natural Phenomena


EDP Sciences, Cambridge University Press (CUP)





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Mathematics Subject Classification: 47A75 / 45K05 / 92D40