Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates, are key players in aquatic ecosystems, provide a diverse set of ecosystem services, and are sensitive to environmental change. We study their ecology, evolution and conservation. We work with fish diversity from traits and genes in populations to the diversity of species assemblages, their change through time and the ecosystem consequences. We are particularly interested in understanding the evolution of endemic diversity within individual ecosystems, such as the radiations of cichlid fish in African lakes and the radiation of whitefish in the lakes around the European Alps. We are a single research group led by Ole Seehausen at the University of Bern but Ole also leads the Department Fish Ecology and Evolution at the Eawag Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Kastanienbaum, where we currently host four other research groups that are all associated with the IEE too. The work of the Eawag department is motivated by the aim to contribute to the emerging synthesis between evolutionary biology and ecosystems ecology. There we also host the Swiss Fisheries Advisory Service. Researchers in the department of vertebrates at the Natural History Museum Bern, NMBE, are also affiliated with our University division.
Ecosystems - Ecological Consequences of Animal Migration: Prey Partial Migration Affects Predator Ecology and Prey Communities
Ecological impacts caused by the migration, such as altered predator–prey interactions and effects on community structure, are poorly understood. In this study, it was tested whether partial migration of certain species within the overall prey community affects foraging ecology of top predators and thereby alters energy pathways in food webs. Jakob and colleagues carried out the study in independent replicated freshwater lake systems, four with and four without opportunity for prey migration. They found clear seasonal bottom-up effects of prey migration on predators, including changes in size structure and total biomass of ingested prey, size-specific changes in littoral versus pelagic origin of diet, and a higher degree of feast-and-famine for predators in systems with migratory prey. Their analyses further showed that partially migratory prey species constitute a larger part of the prey community in systems that allow migration. Hence, prey migrations have important implications for predator foraging ecology and may cause seasonal shifts in the importance of their supporting energy pathways. They suggest that such bottom-up effects of partial migration may be a widespread phenomenon both in aquatic and in terrestrial ecosystems.