Connecting Aquatic Food Webs to Land Use Change
The land around lakes and rivers has long been known to funnel energy and nutrients downstream to support the growth of aquatic organisms. However, a pressing question is how the reliance on these resources and subsequent productivity of aquatic organisms changes as surrounding lands are altered by human activities. In 2014, we published the first study demonstrating how the productivity of entire lake food webs varied with the type and amount of surrounding land cover. The paper was highlighted by the UN in their landmark Freshwater, Fish, and the Future report and was featured on an episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) flagship TV series The Nature of Things. CBC Kids even broadcast a summary of the paper for children.
The 2014 study further catalysed intense debate on the importance of terrestrial resources between lab and field studies that culminated in a global synthesis that we led with funding from UKRI NERC. The work provided the first global test for cross-ecosystem resource fluxes in lakes and resolved the debate once and for all. The novel methods behind these papers led to other important discoveries linking terrestrial base cation depletion to dramatic changes in lake food webs, patterns of human land use to microplastic pollution, and forest disturbances as levers on land-water nutrient cycling.