Winter is coming: Food web structure and seasonality in a subtropical freshwater coastal lake
Lemes da Silva, A.L.
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Food web studies provide a useful tool to assess the organization and complexity of natural communities. Nevertheless, the seasonal dynamics of food web properties, their environmental correlates, and potential association with community diversity and stability remain poorly studied. Here, we condensed an incomplete 6-year community dataset of a subtropical coastal lake to examine how monthly variation in diversity impacts food web structure over an idealized time series for an averaged year. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, and fish were mostly resolved to species level (n = 120 trophospecies). Our results showed that the seasonal organization of the food web could be aggregated into two clusters of months grouped here as ‘summer’ and ‘winter’. During ‘winter’, the food web decreases in size and complexity, with the number of trophospecies dropping from 106 to 82 (a 22.6% decrease in the number of nodes) and the trophic interactions from 1,049 to 637 between month extremes (a 39.3% drop in the number of links). The observed simplification in food web structure during ‘winter’ suggests that community stability is more vulnerable to the impact of any change during this period.