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  1. Resource quantity (i.e. organic matter; OM) is a main driver of the prevailing energy pathway in freshwater food webs. The OM pool is mainly composed of allochthonous material, a primary resource for freshwater consumers. Contrastingly, small amounts of autochthonous OM (i.e. algae) can subsidize aquatic communities due to its higher nutritional quality. To date, there is no consensus about the relative importance of allochthonous and autochthonous OM for freshwater food webs or the environmental factors driving their relative importance. We fill this gap by evaluating the relative importance of allochthonous and autochthonous OM sources for freshwater food webs on a global scale through a meta‐analytical approach. We gathered the outcome of stable isotope mixing models of 2789 cases from 58 published studies and calculated a response ratio between the mean contributions of allochthonous and autochthonous OM for freshwater consumers. Using mixed‐effect models and a multimodel inference approach, we tested the influence of latitude, habitat type, ecosystem size, climate and terrestrial productivity over the response ratio. The relative contribution of autochthonous OM was higher in lotic systems. In lentic systems, increasing terrestrial productivity increased the relative contribution of autochthonous OM, while increasing precipitation and temperature seasonality reduced this relative contribution. We suggested that factors increasing terrestrial productivity might also boost autochthonous OM in these systems, while precipitation increases the transport of allochthonous OM to freshwater habitats. We did not find any relationship between environmental factors and the relative contribution of autochthonous OM for lotic systems. We concluded that the relative contribution of allochthonous and autochthonous energy sources to freshwater food webs differs between lotic and lentic ecosystems and it is dependent on multiple environmental factors.

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