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Understanding trophic interactions in a warming world by bridging foraging ecology and biomechanics with network science

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jordan CuffORCiD, Dr Fredric WindsorORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Climate change will disrupt biological processes at every scale. Ecosystem functions and services vital to ecological resilience are set to shift, with consequences for how we manage land, natural resources, and food systems. Increasing temperatures cause morphological shifts, with concomitant implications for biomechanical performance metrics crucial to trophic interactions. Biomechanical performance, such as maximum bite force or running speed, determines the breadth of resources accessible to consumers, the outcome of interspecific interactions, and thus the structure of ecological networks. Climate change-induced impacts to ecosystem services and resilience are therefore on the horizon, mediated by disruption of biomechanical performance and, consequently, trophic interactions across whole ecosystems. Here, we argue that there is an urgent need to investigate the complex interactions between climate change, biomechanical traits and foraging ecology to help predict changes to ecological networks and ecosystem functioning. We discuss how these seemingly disparate disciplines can be connected through network science. Using an ant-plant network as an example, we illustrate how different data types could be integrated to investigate the interaction between warming, bite force and trophic interactions, and discuss what such an integration will achieve. It is our hope that this integrative framework will help to identify a viable means to elucidate previously intractable impacts of climate change, with effective predictive potential to guide management and mitigation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cuff JP, Labonte D, Windsor FM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Integrative & Comparative Biology

Year: 2024

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 13/06/2024

Acceptance date: 08/06/2024

Date deposited: 10/06/2024

ISSN (print): 1540-7063

ISSN (electronic): 1557-7023

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/icb/icae070


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Funder referenceFunder name
Human Frontier Science Programme Young Investigator Award (RGY0073/2020)