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Experimental warming transforms multiple predator effects in a grassland food web

Authors


E-mail: brandon.barton@yale.edu

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2009) 12: 1317–1325

Abstract

This experimental study tests new theory for multiple predator effects on communities by using warming to alter predator habitat use and hence direct and indirect interactions in a grassland food web containing two dominant spider predator species, a dominant grasshopper herbivore and grass and herb plants. Experimental warming further offers insight into how climate change might alter direct and indirect effects. Under ambient environmental conditions, spiders used habitat in spatially complementary locations. Consistent with predictions, the multiple predator effect on grasshoppers and on plants was the average of the individual predator effects. Warming strengthened the single predator effects. It also caused the spider species to overlap lower in the vegetation canopy. Consistent with predictions, the system was transformed into an intraguild predation system with the consequent extinction of one spider species. The results portend climate caused loss of predator diversity with important consequences for food web structure and function.

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