I am proposing a food web-based approach to the study of ecosystem integrity and biodiversity in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay Delta, California. Stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen (13C and 15N) provide an energy-based measure of food web relationships in aquatic systems. This new approach to addressing problems in aquatic conservation can contribute significantly to aquatic conservation in a number of ways. For example, food webs represent a rarely appreciated level of biodiversity, although I argue that conservation efforts will benefit from setting priorities based on the integrity and diversity of food webs. Food web structure of aquatic ecosystems is sensitive to perturbation such as invasive species; consequently, the food web approach can be used to quantify the impacts of invasive species and environmental degradation on aquatic ecosystems. Finally, I propose to examine to what extent the food web structure of an ecosystem influences the resistance and resilience of that system to invasive species. Food web information may be useful in making predictions about which invasive species will invade and whether they will have significant ecological impacts.
Jake is a currently a professor at the Center for Limnology and the Department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Visit his website.