An important study of entire food-web dynamics in the deserted tundra environment has been published by an international team of researchers.
Field studies covering three continents show that temperature has an unexpectedly important effect on food-web structure, while the relationship between predator and prey is crucial for the food-web dynamics and thereby the entire ecosystem.
Niels Martin Schmidt from Aarhus University, Denmark, one of the researchers behind the study, said they gathered data on all animals and plants characterising the arctic tundra in seven different areas.
He said this allows them to generate a picture of how food chains vary over a very large geographical (and, with it, climatic) gradient. Therefore, and for the first time, we can offer an explanation of the factors governing the tundra as an ecosystem.
The researchers have evidenced that temperature is of decisive importance for which elements form part of the food chain, thus permitting them to predict how climate changes may impact whole food chains - and not just the conditions for the individual species.
Temperature regulates which organisms interact with each other in the far north arctic nature. However, the present study also shows that predation, i.e. the interactions between predators and prey, is the factor regulating the energy flows in ecosystems and, with that, the function of the ecosystem.
Collecting data for the project took place at seven locations in Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.