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On the influence of food quality in consumer–resource interactions

Authors

  • Huxel

    1. Department of Environmental Science and Policy and Institute of Theoretical Dynamics, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.
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Gary R. Huxel Department of Environmental Science and Policy and Institute of Theoretical Dynamics, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.

Abstract

While nutrients are an important regulating factor in food webs, no theoretical studies have examined limits to consumer growth imposed by nutrient concentrations (i.e. food quality) of their prey. Empirical studies have suggested that nutrients may play a role in limiting assimilation efficiencies of herbivores. Using a simple food chain model, I find that prey nutrient concentration does directly influence the growth rate of consumers and potentially increase the stability of consumer–resource interactions. This suggests that the strength of trophic cascades and the relative importance of top–down versus bottom–up control in food webs is significantly influenced by nutrient availability in food resources of consumers. Additionally, the results imply that increases in resource input may cause a change in which resource is limiting and thereby negate any potential “paradox of enrichment”.

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