Predator diversity and the functioning of ecosystems: the role of intraguild predation in dampening trophic cascades


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Single trophic-level studies of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning highlight the importance of mechanisms such as resource partitioning, facilitation, and sampling effect. In a multi-trophic context, trophic interactions such as intraguild predation may also be an important mediator of this relationship. Using a salt-marsh food web, we investigated the interactive effects of predator species richness (one to three species) and trophic composition (strict predators, intraguild predators, or a mixture of the two) on ecosystem functions such as prey suppression and primary production via trophic cascades. We found that the trophic composition of the predator assemblage determined the impact of increasing predator species richness on the occurrence of trophic cascades. In addition, increasing the proportion of intraguild predator species present diminished herbivore suppression and reduced primary productivity. Therefore, trophic composition of the predator assemblage can play an important role in determining the nature of the relationship between predator diversity and ecosystem function.