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Prey naiveté alters the balance of consumptive and non-consumptive predator effects and shapes trophic cascades in freshwater plankton

Citation

Baker, Henry et al. (2022), Prey naiveté alters the balance of consumptive and non-consumptive predator effects and shapes trophic cascades in freshwater plankton, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.pg4f4qrsm

Abstract

Predators drive trophic cascades by reducing prey biomass and altering prey traits, selecting for prey that exhibit constitutive and induced anti-predator defenses that decrease susceptibility to consumption. These defense traits are often costly, generating a tradeoff between consumptive (CEs) and non-consumptive predator effects (NCEs). The ecological and evolutionary experience that prey share with a given predator may determine their position along this tradeoff curve, affecting the nature and strength of top-down control of ecosystems. Conceptual models predict that predator-experienced prey suffer greater NCEs than predator-naive prey, which suffer stronger CEs and total predator effects (CEs + NCEs), but this has not been tested in diverse prey communities. We tested these predictions by comparing the effects of predation (CEs + NCEs) and predation risk (NCEs only) of planktivorous fish on food web structure in pond mesocosms with diverse natural communities of either predator-naive or predator-experienced zooplankton. Contrary to expectations, top-down control of zooplankton and phytoplankton biomass was strengthened by prey community experience: in systems with experienced relative to naive zooplankton communities both predation risk (NCEs only) and predation (CEs + NCEs) had stronger effects on zooplankton prey biomass and trophic cascades were twice as strong. These results show that the ecological and evolutionary experience of diverse prey communities alters the balance of consumptive and non-consumptive predator effects and influences trophic cascade strength.

Methods

See Baker et al. (2022) Oikos. DOI: 10.1111/oik.09173

Funding

Division of Environmental Biology, Award: 1457737