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Title: Predicting ecological impacts of climate change and species introductions on a temperate chalk stream in Southern Britain : a dynamic food web model approach
Author: Sievers, Katja
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 9156
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2011
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To predict the impact of future disturbances such a climate change and introduction of non-native species on ecosystems, it is important to understand how disturbances may affect community composition. This is inherently diffcult since species may be expected to respond differently to disturbances such as elevated temperatures or the introduction of a new species. Furthermore, since the species in an ecosystem are interlinked by energy, nutrient and information transfers, disturbances may be amplified or absorbed, depending on the nature of the disturbance and the resilience of the ecosystem. Some species have a disproportionate effect on ecosystem function and are often referred to as keystone species. By definition the loss of a keystone species causes a catastrophic change in community composition. Therefore, the identification of keystone species could help to target conservation efforts more effciently. A dynamical food web model, representative for a chalk stream (the River Frome, Dorset) was developed and manipulated. Changes in community composition and biodiversity were assessed. For the identification of keystone species each species node was removed in turn. Although impacts were found, particularly after the removal of important prey nodes and top predators, no catastrophic shift was observed and, consequently, no keystone species were identified. Impacts of species introductions were assessed by adding representative model species to the food web. The largest impact was observed after the addition of a small competitor at intermediate trophic level. The addition of a top predator had moderate impact, whereas no negative impact was found after the addition of a larger bodied species at intermediate trophic level. Possible impacts of climate change, specifically elevated temperatures, were assessed by increasing the metabolic rates of the species nodes. No impacts were found, when energy inputs were raised accordingly, but severe impacts, were observed when energy inputs were restricted. In general, the ecosystem was considered fairly resilient to most of the tested disturbances, possibly owing to the high natural variability of the community. The findings of current study suggest that rather than focusing conservation efforts on single species, the focus should be on 'keystone structures' that maintain high ecosystem resilience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography and Environmental Studies