Eutrophication induces shifts in the trophic position of invertebrates in aquatic food webs

Gea H. van der Lee, J.A. Vonk, Ralf C.M. Verdonschot, Michiel H.S. Kraak, Piet F.M. Verdonschot, Jef Huisman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the ecological stoichiometry of primary producers may have considerable implications for energy and matter transfer in food webs. We hypothesized that nutrient enrichment shifts the trophic position of omnivores towards herbivory, as the nutritional quality of primary producers increases. This hypothesis was tested by analyzing the ecological stoichiometry and stable isotope signature of primary producers and a wide range of aquatic macroinvertebrates, including primary consumers (herbivores) and secondary consumers (both potential omnivores and strict carnivores), along a eutrophication gradient in an agricultural landscape. Our results showed (1) that carbon : nutrient ratios of primary producers decreased along the eutrophication gradient, while the elemental composition of consumers remained homeostatic, and (2) that the trophic position of several omnivores and the generalist predator Notonecta decreased, while the trophic position of most other consumers remained constant. These findings suggest that shifts in the diets of aquatic invertebrates induced by increasing eutrophication may affect species interactions and food web structure in aquatic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03275
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • aquatic consumers
  • ecological stoichiometry
  • food web structure
  • nutrients
  • omnivores
  • primary producers
  • stable isotopes
  • trophic position


Dive into the research topics of 'Eutrophication induces shifts in the trophic position of invertebrates in aquatic food webs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this