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Adam Canning

Doctor of Philosophy
Study Completed: 2017
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
The application of network analysis to assess the structure and function of aquatic food webs

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

The health of aquatic ecosystems is in decline globally, primarily from land use change, agricultural intensification, and increasing water demand. However, current methods used to assess ecological health are biased towards ecosystem structure, with minimal attention given to ecosystem function and stability. Mr Canning examined how techniques from network science could be applied to better understand food webs (networks of who eats whom) and holistically assess aquatic ecological health in a way that encompasses structural, functional and stability components. It was found that weak indirect effects and short food chains conferred greater food web stability. Riparian deforestation and nutrient enrichment resulted in ecological communities that have inefficient food web energy flows. Rivers with greater nutrient enrichment had food web configurations that would be highly sensitive to collapsing during floods.

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Dr Mike Joy

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