The accurate identification of fish 'ear-bones', known as otoliths, is essential to determine the fish prey of marine and terrestrial predators. Fish otoliths are species-specific when combining size, shape and surface features, and can remain undigested for long periods. As a result, they can indicate which fish make up the diet of various predators, including cephalopod, seabird, marine mammal and fish species. Such studies are crucial for understanding marine ecosystems, and trophodynamics in particular. Increasingly, these methods are being used to understand the diet of some terrestrial predators, also extending to that of humans in archaelogical studies.
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The studies in the Ogawa Forest Reserve (OPR) were initiated by a group of plant ecologists and gradually expanded into a comprehensive project covering various aspects of biology, soil science, and silviculture. The project was integrated as part of the Forest Ecosystem Team under the BIO-COSMOS Program funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. As the coordinators of the Forest Ecosystem Team, we are pleased that reports of the long-term studies carried out in the OFR are being published in this first volume on Japanese ecosystems in the Ecological Studies series. Scientists and researchers have made numerous contributions to the field of forest ecology during more than 10 years of studies in the OFR. Two reasons can be cited for the success of the project: scientists from various disciplines concenÂ trated on a single target forest ecosystem, and the research continued over a relaÂ tively long term. It is now recognized that ecological processes include compliÂ cated mechanisms supported by interactions among organisms and large temporal variations. The researchers in the OFR project were motivated by their interest in the history of ecosystems and the interactions of diverse creatures in the forest.