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Body mass constraints on feeding rates determine the consequences of predator loss

Authors

  • Florian Dirk Schneider,

    Corresponding author
    1. Georg August University Göttingen, J.F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Berliner Str. 28, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
    2. Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute of Zoology, Schnittspahnstr. 10, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany
      E-mail:f_schneider@bio.tu-darmstadt.de
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  • Stefan Scheu,

    1. Georg August University Göttingen, J.F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Berliner Str. 28, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
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  • Ulrich Brose

    1. Georg August University Göttingen, J.F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Berliner Str. 28, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum to Schneider, Scheu & Brose (2012) DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01750.x Volume 17, Issue 10, 1339–1340, Article first published online: 9 September 2014

E-mail:f_schneider@bio.tu-darmstadt.de

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2012) 15: 436–443

Abstract

Understanding effects of species loss in complex food webs with multiple trophic levels is complicated by the idiosyncrasy of the predator effects on lower trophic levels: direct and indirect effects intermingle and may increase, decrease or not affect ecosystem functioning. We introduce a reductionist approach explaining a predator’s trophic effect only by empirically well-founded body-mass constraints on abundance, diet breadth and feeding strength. We demonstrate that this mechanistic concept successfully explains the positive, negative and neutral net effects of predators on decomposers in a litter microcosm experiment. This approach offers a new perspective on the interplay of complex interactions within food webs and is easily extendable to include phylogenetic and other body-mass independent traits. We anticipate that allometry will substantially improve our understanding of idiosyncratic predator effects in experiments and the consequences of predator loss in natural ecosystems.

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