Theme overview

To understand energy and nutrient dynamics in Great Lakes food webs and the role of food web members in structuring resilient communities and ecosystems.

Knowledge gaps in energy and nutrient dynamics of large lake ecosystems

Flow into System Structural attributes Importance of macroalgae as a basal resource in the nearshore habitat
Contributions of nutrients inputs to ecosystem and fish production
Natural processes Impacts of long-term temporal changes in dietary quality of basal resources
Human modifiers Impacts of land use and climate change on energy and nutrient inputs
Flow within habitats Structural attributes Drivers of offshore fish community production
Energy and nutrient dynamics within connecting channels and tributaries , and impacts of these flows on near- and offshore lentic food-web structure
Role of microbial food-web structure in the dynamics of higher trophic levels
Contribution of the deep chlorophyll layer to production, compensation, or both in the pelagic food web
Role of the benthic community in nearshore water quality and food web dynamics
Natural processes Implications of density-dependent top-down effects of planktivore grazing and piscivore predation on ecosystem function and adaptive capacity
Drivers of changes in zooplankton community structure and impacts of these changes on food-web structure and adaptive capacity of the system
Impacts of reduced prey fish diversity and density on the adaptive capacity of the nearshore, pelagic, and profundal habitats
Impacts of changing seasonal phytoplankton community dynamics (biomass, abundance, species composition) on upper trophic level production
Applicability of research on nearshore pathway energy and nutrient flows in embayments to areas of open shoreline
Human modifiers Effects of non-native planktivores on trophic structure of pelagic and profundal energy pathways
Impacts of harmful algal blooms on food webs
Flow among habitats Structural attributes Spatial and temporal variation in magnitude and direction of energy and nutrient flows among habitat compartments
Magnitude, mechanisms, and importance of inter-basin coupling
Natural processes Changes in coupling among habitat compartments (i.e., magnitude and direction of energetic and nutrient linkages) over time
Drivers of carbon cycling between near- and offshore habitats. Do increased nearshore signals represent increased nearshore movement by consumers or increased offshore movement by prey?
Role of mussel veligers as prey for larval fishes
Contribution of winter energy dynamics, including coupling by mobile consumers, to food-web structure
Mechanisms behind fluctuating abundance of small benthic fishes (e.g., sculpins)
Spatiotemporal patterns and rates of transport of particle associated substances from nearshore to offshore
Impacts of changes in abundance of mobile or migratory fishes on nearshore productivity
Changes in phenology of energy subsidies (i.e., climactic influences on spawning run timing)
Human modifiers Impacts of hypoxia on fish movement and coupling among habitats
Role of native as compared to non-native benthic fishes as energy vectors between nearshore and offshore profundal habitats

Theme paper

McMeans, B. C., K. S. McCann, T. D. Tunney, A. T. Fisk, A. Muir, N. Lester, B. Shuter, and N. Rooney. 2016. The adaptive capacity of lake food webs: from individuals to ecosystems. Ecological Monographs 86(1): 4-19

Ives, J.T., B.C. McMeans, K.S. McCann, A.T. Fisk, T.B. Johnson, D.B. Bunnell, K.T. Frank. & A.M. Muir. 2019. Food-web structure and ecosystem function in the Laurentian Great Lakes – Toward a conceptual model. Freshwater Biology, 1-23

Theme leaders

Bailey McMeans
University of Toronto Mississauga
Department of Biology
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
Heidi Swanson
200 University Ave.
W University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON N2L 3GL

Relevant resources

A complete list of completion reports and scientific papers resulting from this theme can be found in the Commission's publication database.