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Warming shifts top-down and bottom-up control of pond food web structure and function.


The effects of global and local environmental changes are transmitted through networks of interacting organisms to shape the structure of communities and the dynamics of ecosystems. We tested the impact of elevated temperature on the top-down and bottom-up forces structuring experimental freshwater pond food webs in western Canada over 16 months. Experimental warming was crossed with treatments manipulating the presence of planktivorous fish and eutrophication through enhanced nutrient supply. We found that higher temperatures produced top-heavy food webs with lower biomass of benthic and pelagic producers, equivalent biomass of zooplankton, zoobenthos and pelagic bacteria, and more pelagic viruses. Eutrophication increased the biomass of all organisms studied, while fish had cascading positive effects on periphyton, phytoplankton and bacteria, and reduced biomass of invertebrates. Surprisingly, virus biomass was reduced in the presence of fish, suggesting the possibility for complex mechanisms of top-down control of the lytic cycle. Warming reduced the effects of eutrophication on periphyton, and magnified the already strong effects of fish on phytoplankton and bacteria. Warming, fish and nutrients all increased whole-system rates of net production despite their distinct impacts on the distribution of biomass between producers and consumers, plankton and benthos, and microbes and macrobes. Our results indicate that warming exerts a host of indirect effects on aquatic food webs mediated through shifts in the magnitudes of top-down and bottom-up forcing.