This blog post is provided by Javier Sánchez-Hernández and tells the StoryBehindthePaper for the paper “Fresh perspectives on the River Continuum Concept require trophic ecology approaches focused on food web structure and energy mobilisation routes”, which was recently published in Journal of Animal Ecology. This concept details several ways about how food web approaches can be accommodated within the River Continuum Concept (RCC) in order to improve our understanding of the structure and functioning in stream ecosystems.
The RCC is a long‐standing framework in stream ecology that describes lotic ecosystems from headwaters to river mouths, predicting a continuous gradient in the structure of animal communities according to physical and biophysical conditions. The RCC can be broadly applied to typical temperate systems and many riverine ecosystems can be generally accommodated within the RCC. However, we currently do not know the underlying longitudinal gradients in food web structure and energy flow-paths.
The novelty of this concept lies in that trophic ecology can be integrated into RCC principles through changes in predator-prey relationships, food web structure and energy mobilisation routes along the river continuum (Figure 1). Thus, consumer’s diet can be integrated into the RCC because stream-dwelling species can follow a gradual replacement of the dominant food resources along the river continuum through bottom-up mechanisms and cascading trophic effects, driving changes in food web structure and energy mobilisation routes. Promising areas for future research include the role that terrestrial invertebrates and fish prey (piscivory) play across longitudinal and lateral (aquatic-terrestrial linkage) dimensions.
Trophic ecology considerations (energy flow-paths and food web structure) on the RCC represent novel research lines and emerging frameworks that should receive further attention. Besides, the inclusion of meta-ecosystem theories underlying longitudinal patterns of riverine networks may be relevant for a broader range of systems than those mountainous temperate and forested headwater catchments described in the original RCC conception. Overall, I hope this paper will stimulate scientific debate and bring increased attention to the recognition of new patterns in energy mobilisation routes and food web structure along the river continuum and its importance for a
compressive understanding of stream ecology.
Read the paper
Read the full paper here: Sánchez-Hernández (2023) Fresh perspectives on the River Continuum Concept require trophic ecology approaches focussed on food web structure and energy mobilisation routes. Journal of Animal Ecology, 00: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13928
About the Author
I am a freshwater ecologist with a main research interest in trophic ecology, including competitive interactions, food-web modelling and biogeographic patterns in feeding, currently holding an academic position (associate professor) at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain (https://biodiversos.org/javier-sanchez-hernandez/).