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Integrating top-down and bottom-up effects of local density across scales and a complex life cycle


Mutz, Jessie; Underwood, Nora; Inouye, Brian (2021), Integrating top-down and bottom-up effects of local density across scales and a complex life cycle, Dryad, Dataset,


Effects of group size (local conspecific density) on individual performance can be substantial, yet it is unclear how these translate to larger-scale and longer-term outcomes. Effects of group size can be mediated by both top-down and bottom-up interactions, can change in type or direction across the life cycle, and can depend on the spatial scale at which group size is assessed. Only by determining how these different processes combine can we make predictions about how selection operates on group size or link hierarchical patterns of density-dependence with population dynamics. We manipulated the density of a leaf beetle, Leptinotarsa juncta, at three nested spatial scales (patch, plant within a patch, and leaf within plant) to investigate how conspecific density affects predator-mediated survival and resource-mediated growth during different life stages and across multiple spatial scales. We then used data from field predation experiments to assess how L. juncta densities at hierarchical scales affect different aspects of predation. Finally, we incorporated predator- and resource-mediated effects of density in a model to explore how changes in group size due to density-dependent predation might affect mass at pupation for survivors. The effects of L. juncta density on predation risk differed among scales. Per capita predation risk of both eggs and late-instar larvae was lowest at high patch-scale densities, but increased with plant-scale density. The final mass of late-instar larvae declined with increasing plant-scale larval density, potentially due to truncated development of high-density larvae. Predation incidence (i.e., group attack rate) increased with larval density at all spatial scales. A high coefficient of variation (i.e., greater aggregation) of L. juncta density was associated with lower predation incidence at some scales. Our model suggested that predator- and resource-mediated effects of density interact: lower survival at high larval density is mitigated by high final mass of larvae in the resulting smaller groups. Our results emphasize the importance of spatial scale and demonstrate that effects of top-down and bottom-up interactions are not necessarily independent. To understand how group size influences fitness, predator- and resource-mediated effects of density should be measured in their demographic and spatial context, and not in isolation.

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