Prey Vulnerability Limits Top-Down Control and Alters Reciprocal Feedbacks in a Subsidized Model Food Web

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
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Atlas WI, Palen WJ (2014) Prey Vulnerability Limits Top-Down Control and Alters Reciprocal Feedbacks in a Subsidized Model Food Web. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85830. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085830

Date created: 
2014-01-21
Abstract: 

Resource subsidies increase the productivity of recipient food webs and can affect ecosystem dynamics. Subsidies of prey often support elevated predator biomass which may intensify top-down control and reduce the flow of reciprocal subsidies into adjacent ecosystems. However, top-down control in subsidized food webs may be limited if primary consumers posses morphological or behavioral traits that limit vulnerability to predation. In forested streams, terrestrial prey support high predator biomass creating the potential for strong top-down control, however armored primary consumers often dominate the invertebrate assemblage. Using empirically based simulation models, we tested the response of stream food webs to variations in subsidy magnitude, prey vulnerability, and the presence of two top predators. While terrestrial prey inputs increased predator biomass (+12%), the presence of armored primary consumers inhibited top-down control, and diverted most aquatic energy (~75%) into the riparian forest through aquatic insect emergence. Food webs without armored invertebrates experienced strong trophic cascades, resulting in higher algal (~50%) and detrital (~1600%) biomass, and reduced insect emergence (−90%). These results suggest prey vulnerability can mediate food web responses to subsidies, and that top-down control can be arrested even when predator-invulnerable consumers are uncommon (20%) regardless of the level of subsidy.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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Sponsor(s): 
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Canada Research Chairs program
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