Bottom-up Ecological Processes Better For Clear Waters, Study Finds

ch literature in the ecological sciences. Vote counting consists of tallying all studies that detect statistically significant effects and nonsignificant effects and inferring the generality of the phenomenon, Brett explains. Vote counting is likely to find only large effects -- especially given the nature of ecological studies, which typically use small samples sizes -- and ecological systems can vary greatly.

So Brett decided to take another look at the trophic cascade hypothesis using a newer statistical technique called "meta-analysis." More sensitive to smaller effects and to common patterns among different lake ecosystems, this method ignores the original statistical work of each study and goes back instead to the raw data to look for general patterns. The leading proponent of applying meta-analysis to ecological problems is considered to be Jessica Gurevitch, an associate professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, whom Brett credits as a direct influence in the work.

In the first step toward tackling this problem last year, Brett and Goldman published a meta-analysis of 54 studies, providing unequivocal support for the trophic cascade hypothesis in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Next, the pair set out to compare this top-down hypothesis with the "bottom-up" effect of nutrients upon the quantity of algae.

The UC Davis researchers looked at data reported in eight papers from 11 experiments testing the impact of adding fish versus nutrients to food webs and comparing them with controls. Overall, adding small fish, such as minnows, to the top of the small food webs in the studies caused a 75 percent decrease in zooplankton biomass and an 80 percent increase in algae biomass. Adding nutrients to the bottom of the food webs resulted in a 180 percent increase in algae and a 24 percent increase in zooplankton. The bott

Contact: Carol Morton
University of California - Davis

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