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Keywords:

  • Additive design;
  • coexistence;
  • ecosystem functioning;
  • herbivore diversity;
  • macroalgae;
  • mesograzer;
  • predator diversity;
  • replacement design

Abstract

Interacting changes in predator and prey diversity likely influence ecosystem properties but have rarely been experimentally tested. We manipulated the species richness of herbivores and predators in an experimental benthic marine community and measured their effects on predator, herbivore and primary producer performance. Predator composition and richness strongly affected several community and population responses, mostly via sampling effects. However, some predators survived better in polycultures than in monocultures, suggesting complementarity due to stronger intra- than interspecific interactions. Predator effects also differed between additive and substitutive designs, emphasizing that the relationship between diversity and abundance in an assemblage can strongly influence whether and how diversity effects are realized. Changing herbivore richness and predator richness interacted to influence both total herbivore abundance and predatory crab growth, but these interactive diversity effects were weak. Overall, the presence and richness of predators dominated biotic effects on community and ecosystem properties.