Translational Data Analytics Institute (Fall Forum 2021)

The Importance of Humans in Neotropical Food Webs: A Human-Centered Neotropical Food Web from Published Trophic Interactions

(Click to view poster)

View Supplementary Information


Shane A. Scaggs*,1, Andrew Shen2, Sean S. Downey*,1,3,4


Humans are rarely included in food webs, but when they are they are assigned unique roles like superpredator [1], super generalist [2], or ecological engineer [3]. These roles signify the extraordinary indirect influences that human subsistence has on local ecosystems [4-5]; influences that have reached a global scale in the Anthropocene6. We investigate the influence of Indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya subsistence on a neotropical Central American food web using published dietary studies. Inspired by the methodology of Crabtree et al. [5] we started by compiling food items consumed by Indigenous Q’eqchi’ Mayans in Belize6. From there, we branched out to cover as much published literature on neotropical trophic interactions as possible through the EBSCO and Web of Science databases, focusing on wildlife ecology studies located in neotropical rainforests. All predator and prey common names, taxa, trophic levels, interaction type, study region, type of data collection, and Bibtex labels were compiled into a database. The analyses here focus on Central America. We used three generative models [8-9] to simulate 3000 food webs and compared the structural properties of the simulated food webs to a human-centered food web from Central America. Simulation results tentatively support a niche model.

(1) Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, (2) Data Analytics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, (3) The Sustainability Institute, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH,  (4) Translational Data Analytics Institute, The Ohio State University