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Biodiversity and Energy Availability across a Coastal Ocean Network


Environmental conditions affect the structure of resident communities. Productivity (i.e. available energy), in particular, may greatly influence the biodiversity of organisms through space and time, possibly resulting in some of the most striking diversity gradients on Earth. Despite evidence for this relationship in terrestrial ecosystems, the role of available energy for the structure and functioning of marine consumer communities is poorly resolved. We propose to test the relationship among energy availability, consumer biodiversity, and food web structure across global coastal ecosystems. Based on standardized water samples, taken by participating MarineGEO network partners across multiple sites and seasons, we will quantify the availability of “fresh” energy (labile organic carbon) in the system and relate these values to the diversity of consumer species using environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding. Furthermore, we will map functional traits onto resident fish communities to reconstruct consumer food webs and test whether organic carbon dynamics have traceable impacts on the trophic structure of fish communities. By incorporating local gradients within coastal regions, we will reveal whether a relationship among energy availability, biodiversity, and trophic structure exists in coastal marine ecosystems across spatial scales and the relative impact of environmental and anthropogenic drivers.