Spatial food-web dynamics in the Serengeti ecosystem

Ecology and Evolution seminar

John Fryxell,  University of Guelph
Spatial food-web dynamics in the Serengeti ecosystem
Thursday, January 29, 4:10 – 5:30 pm
1003 Giedt Hall

My research focuses on interactions between behavior and consumer-resource dynamics. A mix of theoretical and empirical approaches is used to consider the dynamics of specific systems. Theoretical questions of interest include herbivore and carnivore movement in relation to resource availability and predation risk, optimal diet, patch selection, and dispersal patterns in heterogeneous environments, the effect of social interference and territoriality on consumer-resource interactions, and impacts of harvesting by humans on fish and mammal populations.

Empirical work has been concentrated on 3 different terrestrial ecosystems over the past decade: large herbivores and carnivores in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), woodland caribou, wolves, and moose in boreal forests of northern Ontario (Canada), and mustelid carnivores and other small mammals in boreal forests of northern Ontario. In each case, my graduate students and I conduct detailed field and experimental studies of behavioral ecology of both predators and prey. Theoretical models are then used to assess the implications of behavioral strategies on population and community dynamics and model predictions are then tested against long-term observational data from terrestrial ecosystems.

Kevin McCann and I recently initiated a collaborative research program on spatial food web dynamics of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations in massive aquatic mesocosms in the new Limnotron facility at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. Initial experiments relate to resource- vs predator- and ratio-dependent functional and numerical responses, responses of predator and algal populations to pulsed versus continuous nutrient influx, resource- and density-dependent diffusion patterns by zooplankton and phytoplankton, and spatial pattern formation in relation to population fluctuations.

An ongoing applied research interest relates to sustainable harvesting of fish and mammal populations. Key questions relate to long-term stability of harvested populations due to dynamic variation in harvester effort, effects of bioeconomic dynamics on long-term stability of fish stocks and prices, and spatial processes in harvested populations with and without no-harvest reserves.

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