Trophic cascades across ecosystems


Trophic cascades across ecosystems

Healthy ponds with fish benefit flowering plants with more frequent pollinator visits.

Written by: Tiffany M. Knight1,2, Michael W. McCoy1, Jonathan M. Chase2, Krista A. McCoy1 & Robert D. Holt1

In this eight-pond study on pollinator population, researchers found that keeping ponds healthy creates a mutually beneficial environment for fish, plants, and bees. The plants near healthy ponds had two times more pollen than plants near unhealthy ponds. Pollinator visitation rates on plants were much higher near ponds with fish than plants near fish-free ponds, and most pollinator visitors near ponds with fish consisted of bees, whereas most visitors near fish-free ponds consisted of flies.


  • Decline in fish population and the resulting increase in dragonflies due to pond eutrophication, hydroperiod modification, and pollution indirectly harm insect-pollinated plants. The findings emphasize how different interconnected ecosystems drive landscape-level impacts.


  • Results indicate that fish presence lowers larval and adult dragonfly population in and around ponds, causing cascading indirect effects on pollinator visitation rates and plant reproductive output in adjacent land.
  • Interactions across ecosystem types (aquatic and terrestrial) may be key to gauging the effects of human activity on environmental change.

Published: 2005 Nature Publishing Group, NATURE Vol. 437 (6) October 2005

Link to Full Article

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Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA

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