Working Group Food Web

The Food Web Group focusses on complex interactions between planktonic organisms concentrating on primary producers at the base of the food web (phytoplankton) and their primary and secondary consumers (e.g. micro- and mesozooplankton).

Planktonic food webs are highly complex, they entail a plethora of different feeding interactions, and are characterized by strong spatio-temporal dynamics.

The characterization of Shelf Sea food webs is our central aim. By using field and experimental approaches, we address the effects of external (e.g. nutrients, temperature, light, hydrodynamics, CO2, O2) and internal drivers (intra- and inter-specific interactions) on food web structure and dynamics.

Micrograzers play a prominent role as trophic link between microbial and classical food webs. As a result, we specifically consider small-sized protozoa (e.g. heterotrophic dinoflagellates, ciliates) and metazoa (e.g. copepods, meroplanktonic larvae) in the plankton.

By using multi-trophic approaches, we aim to assess the role of food quantity and quality in the transfer of energy between trophic levels, and in the structure of food webs. Further, we conduct indoor microcosm and field mesocosm experiments with North Sea plankton to understand how global change impacts planktonic food webs on different organisational levels (individual, population, and community)

North Sea plankton

Given their central role in marine food webs, planktonic organisms are of vital importance for healthy ecosystems. They are key indicators of ecosystem change and are the core groups studied in the Food Webs WG