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Bunnell D.B.,U.S. Geological Survey | Barbiero R.P.,CSC | Ludsin S.A.,Ohio State University | Madenjian C.P.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 16 more authors.
BioScience | Year: 2014

Understanding the relative importance of top-down and bottom-up regulation of ecosystem structure is a fundamental ecological question, with implications for fisheries and water-quality management. For the Laurentian Great Lakes, where, since the early 1970s, nutrient inputs have been reduced, whereas top-predator biomass has increased, we describe trends across multiple trophic levels and explore their underlying drivers. Our analyses revealed increasing water clarity and declines in phytoplankton, native invertebrates, and prey fish since 1998 in at least three of the five lakes. Evidence for bottom-up regulation was strongest in Lake Huron, although each lake provided support in at least one pair of trophic levels. Evidence for top-down regulation was rare. Although nonindigenous dreissenid mussels probably have large impacts on nutrient cycling and phytoplankton, their effects on higher trophic levels remain uncertain. We highlight gaps for which monitoring and knowledge should improve the understanding of food-web dynamics and facilitate the implementation of ecosystem-based management. © 2013 Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences 2013. This work is written by US Government employees and is in the public domain in the US.

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