Ecological importance of sharks and rays in a structural foodweb analysis in southern BrazilPublished online on 05. March 2014
Ecological importance of sharks and rays in a structural foodweb analysis in southern Brazil
Hugo Bornatowski, Andrés Felipe Navia, Raul Rennó Braga, Vinícius Abilhoa, Marco Fábio Maia Corrêa
Understanding the trophic interactions and the position of species within a foodweb is crucial if we want to understand the dynamics of marine communities and the impact individual components of the community have on trophic network compartments. Recent studies have indicated sharks and rays are important elements within foodwebs. In this study, we evaluated the ecological importance of sharks and rays in a subtropical ecosystem off the coast of southern Brazil by using topological analyses. We tested the hypotheses that some elasmobranchs can be considered key elements within the foodweb, and that large predators have topological importance (act as keystones), so that, when large predators are excluded, mesopredator elasmobranchs occupy higher topological positions. Our results indicate that Galeocerdo cuvier, Carcharhinus obscurus, Carcharias taurus, Sphyrna lewini and S. zygaena are species with large ecological function values and may exert a powerful influence over lower levels. These issues need to be considered by conservation and fishery management groups since it appears that ecosystem integrity may be compromised by reductions in the populations of large predators. Carcharhinus obscurus, S. zygaena and Zapteryx brevirostris were found to be the elasmobranchs with largest values of centrality, and can, therefore, be considered key elements in the topological structure.
ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi.10.1093/icesjms/fsu025