Data from: Longer food chains in pelagic ecosystems: trophic energetics of animal body size and metabolic efficiency
McGarvey, Richard; Dowling, Natalie; Cohen, Joel E. (2016), Data from: Longer food chains in pelagic ecosystems: trophic energetics of animal body size and metabolic efficiency, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ps1h0
Factors constraining the structure of food webs can be investigated by comparing classes of ecosystems. We find that pelagic ecosystems, those based on one-celled primary producers, have longer food chains than terrestrial ecosystems. Yet pelagic ecosystems have lower primary productivity, contrary to the hypothesis that greater energy flows permit higher trophic levels. We hypothesize that longer food chain length in pelagic ecosystems, compared with terrestrial ecosystems, is associated with smaller pelagic animal body size permitting more rapid trophic energy transfer. Assuming negative allometric dependence of biomass production rate on body mass at each trophic level, the lowest three pelagic animal trophic levels are estimated to add biomass more rapidly than their terrestrial counterparts by factors of 12, 4.8, and 2.6. Pelagic animals consequently transport primary production to a fifth trophic level 50–190 times more rapidly than animals in terrestrial webs. This difference overcomes the approximately fivefold slower pelagic basal productivity, energetically explaining longer pelagic food chains. In addition, ectotherms, dominant at lower pelagic animal trophic levels, have high metabolic efficiency, also favoring higher rates of trophic energy transfer in pelagic ecosystems. These two animal trophic flow mechanisms imply longer pelagic food chains, reestablishing an important role for energetics in food web structure.