Séminaire Kayla Hale
“Resolving plant-consumer interactions in aboveground terrestrial food webs”
Bioenergetic food web approaches have fueled a major body of ecological research, but their focus on body size for inferring trophic interactions and consumption rates is not sufficient for terrestrial systems. Terrestrial plants exhibit large variation in tissue growth and turnover not included in bioenergetic models, and their biotic interactions are driven by defenses, different chemical composition of their tissues, and herbivory on different tissues. Here, I develop a framework that integrates bioenergetics specific to terrestrial plants and their consumers, including mutualistic consumers, into food web models. As a case study, I present a new, hyper-rich empirical food web from a temperate hardwood forest ecosystem in Northern Michigan, USA. I use a multiplex network approach to show that insects and plants engage in highly species- and tissue-specific feeding that are inaccurately represented by coarse taxonomic groups and historic models of food web structure, while larger animals engage in more generalized and opportunistic feeding. I conclude by highlighting theoretical predictions and outstanding empirical questions for aboveground terrestrial food web structure, dynamics, and function.