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Reticulate Food Webs in Space and Time: Messages from the Serengeti

Reticulate Food Webs in Space and Time: Messages from the Serengeti

Chapter:
(p.241) Eight Reticulate Food Webs in Space and Time: Messages from the Serengeti
Source:
Serengeti III
Author(s):
Robert D. HoltPeter A. AbramsJohn M. FryxellT. Kimbrell
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226760353.003.0008

This chapter uses some simple models to determine what kinds of predictions can be made about ecosystem responses to some plausible perturbations, and what additional information is needed to either enable or improve these predictions. It begins by proposing three potential perturbations: (1) increased mortality of lions, which could arise due to upsurges in disease such as canine distemper, or direct attacks from humans; (2) increased mortality of wildebeest, which, for instance, could reflect an outbreak of rinderpest; and (3) an increase in the growth rate of the major grass species (a potential, although far from certain, outcome of global climate change). It then evaluates current knowledge of the Serengeti food web and applies it to the task of determining the consequences of these perturbations. In addition to assessing how well the fate of major players within the ecosystem can be predicted, this exercise can shed light on the potential ability to make similar types of predictions in other ecosystems.

Keywords:   ecosystem response, lions, wildebeests, mortality, grass species, Serengeti ecosystem

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