Flood disturbance, algal productivity, and interannual variation in food chain length

Jane C. Marks, Mary E. Power, Michael S. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations


The length of a river food chain changed from year to year, shifting with the hydrologic regime. During drought years, grazers suppressed algae across a nutrient gradient, while predators were functionally unimportant. Following flood disturbance, predators suppressed grazers, releasing algae. These results suggest that hydrologic regime, rather than productivity, determines the functional length of this river food chain. Within years, algae and grazer biomass responded to an experimental productivity gradient in patterns predicted by simple trophic models that assume efficient energy transfer. Understanding differences among species within trophic levels, however, was crucial in delineating the controlling interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this