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Ecological determinants of community structure across the trophic levels of freshwater food webs: a test using bromeliad phytotelmata


Understanding the relative importance of habitat and biotic drivers on community assembly across food web components is an important step towards predicting the consequences of environmental changes. Because documenting entire food webs is often impractical, this question has been only partially investigated. Here, we partitioned variation in species assemblages of the major components of tank bromeliad food webs (bacteria, algae, protozoans, detritivorous and predatory invertebrates) into habitat and biotic determinants and examined the influence of habitat variables and predator or prey abundance on all taxonomic assemblages. Ecological determinism of assemblage structure ranged from weak in bacteria (< 10% of the explained variance) to strong in predatory invertebrates (90%). Habitat features and canopy openness significantly influenced species assemblages; however, prey or predator density had far and away the most significant structuring effects. If biotic forces are at least as important as the abiotic forces while the importance of stochasticity declines towards upper trophic levels, then trophic levels could respond differently to natural or anthropogenic disturbance and to shifts in species distributions. The effects of such differential responses on food web reconfiguration, however, remain to be elucidated.

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Financial support for this study was provided by the Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité (FRB Project MICBROME, AAP-IN-2009-038) and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche through an Investissement d’Avenir grant (Labex CEBA, ANR-10-LABX-25-01). Logistic support was provided by the Nouragues Field Station of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on an earlier version of this article.

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Correspondence to Régis Céréghino.

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Céréghino, R., Corbara, B., Leroy, C. et al. Ecological determinants of community structure across the trophic levels of freshwater food webs: a test using bromeliad phytotelmata. Hydrobiologia 847, 391–402 (2020).

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  • Environmental filtering
  • Functional group
  • Neotropical
  • Niche
  • Trophic interactions