Department Aquatic Ecology

The architecture of community structure, functional traits and trophic
networks across blue-green ecosystems

This project contributes to the Blue Green Biodiversity Research Initiative – an Eawag-WSL collaboration focusing on Biodiversity at the interface of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Biodiversity is the basis of human life and well-being, and its understanding, managing and protection are key for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Current anthropogenic activities, however, are severely threatening and diminishing biodiversity at unprecedented scales. Mitigating these effects and managing the biodiversity crisis requires concerted actions and profound knowledge across all scales and ecosystem types. Classically, biodiversity dynamics have been based on species richness. More recently, studies mostly focusing on bipartite networks have started to look at structural changes in ecological networks, highlighting the importance of addressing interaction networks and their effects on species persistence and ecosystem functions. However, to date, virtually no study has evaluated how both species richness and network structure vary across paired sites in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

In this project, we analyse the architecture of community structure, functional trait diversity and trophic networks across spatially coupled blue and green ecosystems at two spatial scales, where we will study similarities and differences in the structure of aquatic and terrestrial food webs. First, we analyse the well-defined Thur-catchment, for which extensive data on the community structure, functional traits and trophic relationships of aquatic and terrestrial organisms are available at a finely resolved scale. This catchment is representative for many rivers in Switzerland. Second, we conduct these analyses also at larger landscape-scales. Our study will be representative of major land-use types (urban, agriculture, forest, alpine) of Switzerland, and will use existing data that are well resolved at taxonomic, functional, and spatial scales, and including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates from the aquatic and terrestrial realm.