Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Context-dependent effects of predator removal from experimental microcosm communities


Worsfold, Nicholas T; Warren, Philip H; Petchey, Owen L (2009). Context-dependent effects of predator removal from experimental microcosm communities. Oikos, 118(9):1319-1326.

Abstract

The loss of a predator from an ecological community can cause large changes in community structure and ecosystem
processes, or have very little consequence for the remaining species and ecosystem. Understanding when and why the loss of a predator causes large changes in community structure and ecosystem processes is critical for understanding the functional consequences of biodiversity loss. We used experimental microbial communities to investigate how the removal of a large generalist predator affected the extinction frequency, population abundance and total biomass of its prey. We removed this predator in the presence or absence of an alternative, more specialist, predator in order to determine whether the specialist predator affected the outcome of the initial species removal. Removal of the large generalist predator altered some species’ populations but many were unaffected and no secondary extinctions were observed. The specialist predator, though rare, altered the response of the prey community to the removal of the large generalist predator. In the absence of the specialist predator, the effects of the removal were only measurable at the level of individual species. However, when the specialist predator was present, the removal of the large generalist predator affected the total biomass of prey species. The results demonstrate that the effect of species loss from high trophic levels may be very context-dependent, as rare species can have disproportionately large effects in food webs.

Abstract

The loss of a predator from an ecological community can cause large changes in community structure and ecosystem
processes, or have very little consequence for the remaining species and ecosystem. Understanding when and why the loss of a predator causes large changes in community structure and ecosystem processes is critical for understanding the functional consequences of biodiversity loss. We used experimental microbial communities to investigate how the removal of a large generalist predator affected the extinction frequency, population abundance and total biomass of its prey. We removed this predator in the presence or absence of an alternative, more specialist, predator in order to determine whether the specialist predator affected the outcome of the initial species removal. Removal of the large generalist predator altered some species’ populations but many were unaffected and no secondary extinctions were observed. The specialist predator, though rare, altered the response of the prey community to the removal of the large generalist predator. In the absence of the specialist predator, the effects of the removal were only measurable at the level of individual species. However, when the specialist predator was present, the removal of the large generalist predator affected the total biomass of prey species. The results demonstrate that the effect of species loss from high trophic levels may be very context-dependent, as rare species can have disproportionately large effects in food webs.

Statistics

Citations

17 citations in Web of Science®
16 citations in Scopus®
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Downloads

0 downloads since deposited on 11 Jul 2012
0 downloads since 12 months

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:11 Jul 2012 14:21
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:46
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0030-1299
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0706.2009.17500.x

Download