Keystone Predation and Plant Species Coexistence: The Role of Carnivore Hunting Mode

V. Calcagno, C. Sun, O. J. Schmitz, M. Loreau
2011 American Naturalist  
Plant communities are shaped by bottom-up processes such as competition for nutrients and top-down processes such as herbivory. Although much theoretical work has studied how herbivores can mediate plant species coexistence, indirect effects caused by the carnivores that consume herbivores have been largely ignored. These carnivores can have significant indirect effects on plants by altering herbivore density (density-mediated effects) and behavior (trait-mediated effects). Carnivores that
more » ... r in traits, particularly in their hunting mode, cause different indirect effects on plants and, ultimately, different plant community compositions. We analyze a food-web model to determine how plant coexistence is affected by herbivore-consuming carnivores, contrasting those causing only density-mediated effects with those causing trait-mediated effects as well. In the latter case, herbivores can adjust their consumption of a refuge plant species. We derive a general graphical model to study the interplay of density-and trait-mediated effects. We show that carnivores eliciting both effects can sustain plant species coexistence, given intermediate intensities of behavioral adjustments. Coexistence is more likely, and more stable, if the refuge plant is competitively dominant. These results extend our understanding of carnivore indirect effects in food webs and show that behavioral effects can have major consequences on plant community structure, stressing the need for theoretical approaches that incorporate dynamical traits.
doi:10.1086/657436 pmid:21091211 fatcat:qndbl7c37behxccgz4s2fhasje