Food web patterns and their consequences

  title={Food web patterns and their consequences},
  author={Stuart L. Pimm and John H. Lawton and Joel E. Cohen},
A food web is a map that describes which kinds of organisms in a community eat which other kinds. A web helps picture how a community is put together and how it works. Although webs were often initially reported in despair at ever understanding ecological complexity, recently discovered widespread patterns in the shapes of webs, and theoretical explanations for these patterns, indicate that webs are orderly and intelligible, and have some foreseeable consequences for the dynamics of communities… 

Making connections in food webs.

  • P. Warren
  • Environmental Science
    Trends in ecology & evolution
  • 1994

Scale and Structure in Natural Food Webs

The degree to which widely accepted generalizations about food web structure apply to natural communities was determined through examination of 50 pelagic webs sampled consistently with even taxonomic resolution of all trophic levels, suggesting that the link-species scaling law does not reflect a real ecological trend.

Small world patterns in food webs.

The analysis of some species-rich, well-defined food webs shows that they display the so-called small world behavior shared by a number of disparate complex systems, suggesting that communities might be self-organized in a non-random fashion that might have important consequences in their resistance to perturbations.

Effects of resolution on food web structure

This analysis of 11 large community food webs shows that food web structure systematically varies as the trophic resolution of food web data is reduced, and directed connectance and the predator/prey ratio appear to be relatively robust to this change.

A General Model for Food Web Structure

It is shown that the three main models proposed so far fail to fully replicate the empirical data, and a likelihood-based approach is developed for the direct comparison of alternative models based on the full structure of the network.

Simple rules yield complex food webs

This model extends the existing ‘cascade model’ and improves its fit ten-fold by constraining species to consume a contiguous sequence of prey in a one-dimensional trophic niche.

The Network Structure of Food Webs

The history of the search for generalities in the structure of complex food webs is reviewed, current and future research trends are discussed, and it is suggested that once variable diversity and connectance are taken into account, there are universal coarse-grained characteristics of how trophic links and species are distributed.

Assessing the Relative Importance of Trophic Links in Food Webs

In recent years much effort has gone into the analysis of food web graphs in a search for recurrent properties—the so-called web statistics, but it has become increasingly clear that links vary in their dynamic importance.

Quantitative descriptors and their perspectives for food web ecology

A food web customarily describes the qualitative feeding relationships in a community. Descriptors have been used to extract ecologically meaningful information from such data, e.g., the proportion



Community Food Webs: Data and Theory

Food webs hold a central place in ecology. They describe which organisms feed on which others in natural habitats. This book describes recently discovered empirical regularities in real food webs: it

Variation in Food-Web Structure: The Determinants of Connectance

  • P. Warren
  • Environmental Science
    The American Naturalist
  • 1990
Although there is considerable evidence for a number of patterns in the structure of food webs, there is a conspicuous lack of agreement among explanations for such patterns (Pimm 1982; DeAngelis et

The complexity and stability of ecosystems

Early studies suggested that simple ecosystems were less stable than complex ones, but later studies came to the opposite conclusion. Confusion arose because of the many different meanings of

Scale invariance in food web properties.

This analysis of 60 invertebrate-dominated community food webs confirms the existence of all but one of these properties in such webs and addresses a common concern held by critics of food web theory that observed food web properties may be sensitive to trophic aggregation.

The determinants of food chain lengths

The Determinants of Food Chain Lengths and Trophic Exploitation, Community Structure and Dynamics of Cyclic and Non-Cyclic Populations.

Spatial and temporal variation in food webs in water-filled treeholes

Food webs have been drawn for the community of animals found in water-filled treeholes in south-east Queensland, Australia, and there was a significant inverse relationship between the mean relative abundance of the predators and the saprophages, their prey.

Complexity, Diversity, and Stability: A Reconciliation of Theoretical and Empirical Results

Investigating the relationship between complexity and the lack of change in plant biomass (which the authors call biomass stability) following the removal of an herbivore finds that increased complexity can enhance biomass stability, even in model grazing systems.

Food webs and niche space.

  • J. E. Cohen
  • Economics
    Monographs in population biology
  • 1978
It is shown that within habitats of a certain limited physical and temporal heterogeneity, the overlaps among niches, along their trophic dimensions, can be represented in a one-dimensional niche space far more often than would be expected by chance alone and perhaps always.