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Changes in global and regional precipitation regimes are among the most pervasive components of climate change. Intensification of rainfall cycles, ranging from frequent downpours to severe droughts, could cause widespread, but largely unknown, alterations to trophic structure and ecosystem function. We conducted multi-site coordinated experiments to show how variation in the quantity and evenness of rainfall modulates trophic structure in 210 natural freshwater microcosms (tank bromeliads) across Central and South America (18°N to 29°S). The biomass of smaller organisms (detritivores) was higher under more stable hydrological conditions. Conversely, the biomass of predators was highest when rainfall was uneven, resulting in top-heavy biomass pyramids. These results illustrate how extremes of precipitation, resulting in localized droughts or flooding, can erode the base of freshwater food webs, with negative implications for the stability of trophic dynamics.
Romero, G.Q., Marino, N.A.C., MacDonald, A.A.M. et al. Extreme rainfall events alter the trophic structure in bromeliad tanks across the Neotropics. Nat Commun 11, 3215 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17036-4