Fractional Trophic Levels
Food webs largely define ecosystems, and the trophic levels define the position of organisms within the webs. But these trophic levels are not always simple integers, because organisms often feed at more than one trophic level. For example, some carnivores also eat plants, and some plants are carnivores. A large carnivore may eat both smaller carnivores and herbivores; the bobcat eats rabbits, but the mountain lion eats both bobcats and rabbits. Animals can also eat each other; the bullfrog eats crayfish and crayfish eat young bullfrogs. The feeding habits of a juvenile animal, and consequently its trophic level, can change as it grows up.
The fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly sets the values of trophic levels to one in plants and detritus, two in herbivores and detritivores (primary consumers), three in secondary consumers, and so on. The definition of the trophic level, TL, for any consumer species is:
where is the fractional trophic level of the prey j, and represents the fraction of j in the diet of i.
In the case of marine ecosystems, the trophic level of most fish and other marine consumers takes value between 2.0 and 5.0. The upper value, 5.0, is unusual, even for large fish, though it occurs in apex predators of marine mammals, such as polar bears and killer whales.
In addition to observational studies of animal behavior, and quantification of animal stomach contents, trophic level can be quantified through stable isotope analysis of animal tissues such as muscle, skin, hair, bone collagen. This is because there is a consistent increase in the nitrogen isotopic composition at each trophic level caused by fractionations that occur with the synthesis of biomolecules; the magnitude of this increase in nitrogen isotopic composition is approximately 3–4‰.
Read more about this topic: Trophic
Other articles related to "fractional trophic levels, trophic levels, trophic level":
... Food webs largely define ecosystems, and the trophic levels define the position of organisms within the webs ... But these trophic levels are not always simple integers, because organisms often feed at more than one trophic level ... The feeding habits of a juvenile animal, and consequently its trophic level, can change as it grows up ...
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