Using food network unfolding to evaluate food–web complexity in terms of biodiversity: theory and applications

Yoshikazu Kato, Michio Kondoh, Naoto F. Ishikawa, Hiroyuki Togashi, Yukihiro Kohmatsu, Mayumi Yoshimura, Chikage Yoshimizu, Takashi F. Haraguchi, Yutaka Osada, Nobuhito Ohte, Naoko Tokuchi, Noboru Okuda, Takeshi Miki, Ichiro Tayasu

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Food–web complexity often hinders disentangling functionally relevant aspects of food–web structure and its relationships to biodiversity. Here, we present a theoretical framework to evaluate food–web complexity in terms of biodiversity. Food network unfolding is a theoretical method to transform a complex food web into a linear food chain based on ecosystem processes. Based on this method, we can define three biodiversity indices, horizontal diversity (DH), vertical diversity (DV) and range diversity (DR), which are associated with the species diversity within each trophic level, diversity of trophic levels, and diversity in resource use, respectively. These indices are related to Shannon's diversity index (H′), where H′ = DH + DV − DR. Application of the framework to three riverine macroinvertebrate communities revealed that D indices, calculated from biomass and stable isotope features, captured well the anthropogenic, seasonal, or other within-site changes in food–web structures that could not be captured with H′ alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1074
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio
  • ecosystem functioning
  • food network unfolding
  • species diversity
  • trophic level
  • trophic position
  • trophic pyramid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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