Special Issue

Ecological Research

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 143-149

First online:

Pelagic food webs: Responses to environmental processes and effects on the environment

  • Louis LegendreAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche Email author 
  • , Richard B. RivkinAffiliated withOcean Sciences Center, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s

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Changes in both the environment and environmental research have led to the development of new protocols and approaches. These new approaches consider both the effects of changes in the global environment on living organisms (i.e. the responses of ecosystems to environmental processes) and the feedback responses of these organisms and ecosystems (i.e. the effects of living organisms on the environment). The present paper focuses on pelagic food webs in aquatic ecosystems. We examine three major effects of global environmental changes on aquatic organisms: (i) the release of pollutants and biological agents in lakes and nearshore marine waters; (ii) the loss of biodiversity and the collapse of commercially exploited resources that were heretofore renewable. We develop detailed examples of the effects of human activities on marine organisms (i.e. the effects of nutrient supply on the structure of pelagic food webs in marine systems. Finally, we examine (iii) the food-web-controlled exchanges of CO2 between the atmosphere and the ocean, as a feedback effect of pelagic ecosystems on the global environment with respect to the ongoing climate change.

Key words

biodiversity climate change contaminants exploited aquatic resources global environmental changes marine pelagic ecosystems nutrients