1) Food web dynamics

Subproject 1: Climate variability and food web dynamics in the Maryland Coastal Bays (MCBs)

Project Leader: Ali Ishaque

Other Investigators:

  • Nianhong Chen, Ph.D. (UMES)
  • Paulinus Chigbu, Ph.D. (UMES)
  • Andres G. Morales-Nunez, Ph.D. (UMES)
  • Eric May, Ph.D. (UMES)
  • Ashok Deshpande, Ph.D. (NOAA)
  • Joseph Montoya, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)
  • Howard Townsend, Ph.D. (NOAA)

Project Goals

  • Describe seasonal, spatial and inter-annual variability in trophic relationships in MCBs using gut contents, stable isotopes and fatty acid analyses
  • Assess seasonal, inter-annual and spatial variability in benthic macroinvertebrates and their relationships to abiotic and biotic factors

Project Summary

In this subproject, a multidisciplinary team will conduct an integrated study using a combination of gut content analyses, fatty acid markers, and stable isotope ratios to understand trophic relationships and how the MCBs food web changes in relation to environmental factors and climate variability. Specifically, we will determine if fatty acid (FA) markers and stable isotopes (SI) of phytoplankton in seston, macroalgae, and sea grasses vary spatially, seasonally, and inter-annually, and if these variations affect the FA and SI compositions of zooplankton, benthic macroinvertebrates and fishes. Additionally, the relative importance of different food sources available to higher trophic levels will be determined using fatty acid biomarkers of potential food sources, and the trophic positions of selected organisms in the MCBs will also be determined. Furthermore, the effects of variations in environmental factors on benthic macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity, and the consequent effects on seasonal, spatial and inter-annual patterns in the diets and growth of juvenile fishes will be assessed. These studies are needed in order to develop a realistic food web model that can be used to assess the potential impact of climate variability and change on coastal lagoons.

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