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Linking Landscapes and Food Webs: Effects of Omnivorous Fish and Watersheds on Reservoir Ecosystems

This peer-reviewed article from BioScience is the effects of omnivorous fish and watersheds on reservoirs. Ecologists increasingly recognize the need to understand how landscapes and food webs interact. Reservoir ecosystems are heavily subsidized by nutrients and detritus from surrounding watersheds, and often contain abundant populations of gizzard shad, an omnivorous fish that consumes plankton and detritus. Gizzard shad link terrestrial landscapes and pelagic reservoir food webs by consuming detritus, translocating nutrients from sediment detritus to the water column, and consuming zooplankton. The abundance of gizzard shad increases with watershed agriculturalization, most likely through a variety of mechanisms operating on larval and adult life stages. Gizzard shad have myriad effects on reservoirs, including impacts on nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish, and many of their effects vary with ecosystem productivity (i.e., watershed land use). Interactive feedbacks among watersheds, gizzard shad populations, and reservoir food webs operate to maintain dominance of gizzard shad in highly productive systems. Thus, effective stewardship of reservoir ecosystems must incorporate both watershed and food-web perspectives.

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