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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • carbon-to-phosphorus ratio;
  • chlorophytes;
  • Daphnia magna ;
  • enrichment;
  • light intensity;
  • niche complementarity;
  • phytoplankton;
  • resource use efficiency;
  • trophic transfer

Abstract

Producer diversity is frequently assumed to be detrimental to herbivores, because less edible taxa are more likely to dominate diverse communities. Many producers are, however, complementary in their resource use, and primary production is often positively related to producer diversity. We performed an experiment with microalgae and a generalist herbivore to explore the hypothesis that such positive effects are transferred up the food chain and are functionally comparable to effects of enrichment with a limiting resource. In both absence and presence of grazers, primary production was positively affected by both light supply and producer diversity. Survival, reproduction, and biomass of herbivores were also positively affected by light supply and producer diversity, with both factors contributing equally to grazer performance. We conclude that producer diversity can indeed have similar positive effects on secondary production as enrichment with a limiting resource and discuss conditions under which such positive effects are likely to dominate over negative ones.