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Data from: Subsidy type and quality determine direction and strength of trophic cascades in arthropod food web in agro‐ecosystems


Riggi, Laura G. A.; Bommarco, Riccardo (2019), Data from: Subsidy type and quality determine direction and strength of trophic cascades in arthropod food web in agro‐ecosystems, Dryad, Dataset,


1. The subsidy hypothesis states that communities receiving nutrient subsidies will demonstrate top-down trophic cascades where predators indirectly increase plant biomass. This has been both confirmed and refuted, which might depend on whether the subsidy has mainly targeted the plant or the detrital food-web compartment, and on the subsidy quality. This is particularly poorly understood for terrestrial communities such as heavily subsidized agroecosystems. 2. Using cages covering 4 m2 of ground in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment, we tested whether subsidies targeting the detrital soil meso-fauna compartment with organic fertilisers, or the plants with mineral fertiliser, impacted the direction and strength of trophic cascades in an arthropod-plant food-web. We expected top-down controls of generalist arthropod predators (spiders, ground and rove beetles) on aphid densities to be stronger in organically fertilised plots due to enhanced alternative prey availability in the soil. Bottom-up control from barley quality on aphids was anticipated to be stronger in the mineral treatments. We examined how the quality (decomposability) of the organic subsidy governed the cascades by comparing treatments with labile (manure) and recalcitrant (hay) organic matter. 3. Top-down forces dominated in food-webs receiving organic subsidies, while bottom-up forces dominated under mineral fertilisation. A high quality, easily degradable organic subsidy propagated faster through the food-chain, leading to a top-down trophic cascade with generalist predators having a positive effect on plant biomass in the labile but not in the recalcitrant organic treatment. 4. Synthesis and applications: Management of agricultural soils that bolster the soil meso-fauna, e.g. adding organic fertilisers, has potential to increase top-down biological control by naturally occurring generalist arthropod predators. Barley biomass was enhanced in the manure treatment in the presence of arthropod predators to a level comparable to that of mineral fertiliser.

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