Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Previous research suggests that prey-switching behavior by consumers (adaptive foraging) contributes to the stability of food web networks and may help explain the apparent contradiction between the complexity of natural ecosystems and theory that suggests such complex systems should be unstable. However, no previous study has explored the consequences of adaptive foraging behavior on ecosystem processes (or `functioning'). I assembled communities from regional pools while varying searching efficiency, connectance, and the fraction of adaptive foragers in order to observe the effects these properties have on the diversity and functioning of the resultant communities. In general, pools with increased connectance, a higher fraction of adaptive foragers, and intermediate searching efficiencies yielded communities with greater diversity. However, while pools with high connectance and intermediate searching efficiencies tended to have higher ecosystem productivity, adaptive foragers decreased the overall productivity of the assembled communities. Unsurprisingly, adaptive foragers, connectance, and increased searching efficiency all led to higher rates of trophic transfer. These trends occurred alongside an overall positive correlation between diversity and the rates of these processes. In addition, the higher regional richness increased the per-species functioning of the assembled community. These results suggest that the diversity and structure of food web networks interact with the dynamics of trophic interactions to determine and maintain the properties and processes of ecological communities. vii



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