Direct and Indirect Effects of Resource Quality on Food Web Structure

Science  08 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5864, pp. 804-807
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148310

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The diversity and complexity of food webs (the networks of feeding relationships within an ecological community) are considered to be important factors determining ecosystem function and stability. However, the biological processes driving these factors are poorly understood. Resource quality affects species interactions by limiting energy transfer to consumers and their predators, affecting life history and morphological traits. We show that differences in plant traits affect the structure of an entire food web through a series of direct and indirect effects. Three trophic levels of consumers were influenced by plant quality, as shown by quantitative herbivore–parasitoid–secondary parasitoid food webs. We conclude, on the basis of our data, that changes in the food web are dependent on both trait- and density-mediated interactions among species.

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