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Determining the trophic guilds of fishes and macroinvertebrates in a seagrass food web

June 16, 2010

We established trophic guilds of macroinvertebrate and fish taxa using correspondence analysis and a hierarchical clustering strategy for a seagrass food web in winter in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. To create the diet matrix, we characterized the trophic linkages of macroinvertebrate and fish taxa. present in Hatodule wrightii seagrass habitat areas within the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (Florida) using binary data, combining dietary links obtained from relevant literature for macroinvertebrates with stomach analysis of common fishes collected during January and February of 1994. Heirarchical average-linkage cluster analysis of the 73 taxa of fishes and macroinvertebrates in the diet matrix yielded 14 clusters with diet similarity greater than or equal to 0.60. We then used correspondence analysis with three factors to jointly plot the coordinates of the consumers (identified by cluster membership) and of the 33 food sources. Correspondence analysis served as a visualization tool for assigning each taxon to one of eight trophic guilds: herbivores, detritivores, suspension feeders, omnivores, molluscivores, meiobenthos consumers, macrobenthos consumers, and piscivores. These trophic groups, cross-classified with major taxonomic groups, were further used to develop consumer compartments in a network analysis model of carbon flow in this seagrass ecosystem. The method presented here should greatly improve the development of future network models of food webs by providing an objective procedure for aggregating trophic groups.