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The influence of nutrient enrichment on riverine food web function and stability

Cite this dataset

Canning, Adam; Death, Russell (2022). The influence of nutrient enrichment on riverine food web function and stability [Dataset]. Dryad.


Nutrient enrichment of rivers and lakes has been increasing rapidly over the past few decades, primarily because of agricultural intensification. Although nutrient enrichment is known to drive excessive algal and microbial growth, which can directly and indirectly change the ecological community composition, the resulting changes in food web emergent properties are poorly understood. We used ecological network analysis (ENA) to examine the emergent properties of 12 riverine food webs across a nutrient enrichment gradient in the Manawatu, New Zealand. We also derive Keystone Sensitivity Indices to explore whether nutrients change the trophic importance of species in a way that alters the resilience of the communities to further nutrient enrichment or floods. Nutrient enrichment resulted in communities composed of energy inefficient species with high community (excluding microbes) respiration. Community respiration was several times greater in enriched communities and this may drive hypoxic conditions even without concomitant changes in microbial respiration. Enriched communities exhibited weaker trophic cascades, which may yield greater robustness to energy flow loss. Interestingly, enriched communities were also more structurally and functionally affected by species sensitive to flow disturbance making these communities more vulnerable to floods.