Trophic disruption: a meta-analysis of how habitat fragmentation affects resource consumption in terrestrial arthropod systems

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Abstract

Habitat fragmentation is a complex process that affects ecological systems in diverse ways, altering everything from population persistence to ecosystem function. Despite widespread recognition that habitat fragmentation can influence food web interactions, consensus on the factors underlying variation in the impacts of fragmentation across systems remains elusive. In this study, we conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify the effects of habitat fragmentation and spatial habitat structure on resource consumption in terrestrial arthropod food webs. Across 419 studies, we found a negative overall effect of fragmentation on resource consumption. Variation in effect size was extensive but predictable. Specifically, resource consumption was reduced on small, isolated habitat fragments, higher at patch edges, and neutral with respect to landscape-scale spatial variables. In general, resource consumption increased in fragmented settings for habitat generalist consumers but decreased for specialist consumers. Our study demonstrates widespread disruption of trophic interactions in fragmented habitats and describes variation among studies that is largely predictable based on the ecological traits of the interacting species. We highlight future prospects for understanding how changes in spatial habitat structure may influence trophic modules and food webs.

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