Christopher T. Jeffs
J. Christopher D. Terry
Joel J. Brown
Chia H. Lue
Eleanor K. O'Brien, Edith Cowan UniversityFollow
Owen T. Lewis
ORCID : 0000-0001-5145-7340
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Precision Health
NERC Czech Science Foundation
The analysis of interaction networks across spatial environmental gradients is a powerful approach to investigate the responses of communities to global change. Using a combination of DNA metabarcoding and traditional molecular methods we built bipartite Drosophila – parasitoid food webs from six Australian rainforest sites across gradients spanning 850 m in elevation and 5°C in mean temperature. Our cost-effective hierarchical approach to network reconstruction separated the determination of host frequencies from the detection and quantification of interactions. The food webs comprised 5–9 host and 5–11 parasitoid species at each site, and showed a lower incidence of parasitism at high elevation. Despite considerable turnover in the relative abundance of host Drosophila species, and contrary to some previous results, we did not detect significant changes to fundamental metrics of network structure including nestedness and specialisation with elevation. Advances in community ecology depend on data from a combination of methodological approaches. It is therefore especially valuable to develop model study systems for sets of closely-interacting species that are diverse enough to be representative, yet still amenable to field and laboratory experiments.
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