TitleSpecies interactions in intertidal food webs: Prey or predation regulation of intermediate predators?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsNavarrete, SA, Menge, B, Daley, BA
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Most natural food webs have more than one predator species, and many have trophic interactions among these predators. When a top predator feeds on an intermediate predator and they both feed on a shared basal resource, a phenomenon labeled intraguild predation (IGP), the potential exists for complex food web dynamics due to predation and competitive effects. Here we investigate the relative importance of direct predation vs. competition by a top predator on an intermediate predator. The study system is the rocky intertidal interaction web formed by the predatory seastar Pisaster ochraceus, the predatory whelks Nucella emarginata and N. canaliculata, and a shared resource species, the mussel Mytilus trossulus. Previous experiments documented strong negative effects of Pisaster on mussels and whelks, but the mechanisms responsible for the effects on whelks, whether competition or predation, were not identified. Here we report results of a field experiment that manipulated both Mytilus and Pisaster to determine the short- and longer-term changes in whelk populations. Using a simplified dynamic model for changes in abundance over the initial stages of the experiment, we separated and quantified the top-down effect of direct predation by seastars vs. the bottom-up effects of competition and food limitation. Short-term results were in agreement with longer-term responses. Results suggest that direct and indirect bottom-up influences of mussels were far stronger than predation, and thus, whelk increases in the absence of seastars were due to reduced competition with Pisaster. Large differences between the body sizes of seastars and whelks make it difficult to determine the ultimate nature of the resource under competition between predators. Small mussels may constitute only a food resource for seastars, but to some extent, they also represent a microhabitat for whelks. Differences in the magnitude of the response to mussel manipulations between Nucella species might be due to slight differences in the way the species utilize mussel beds. Some of the predictions of theoretical IGP models regarding coexistence and stability of species may not apply to this interaction web because it includes species with both "open" and "closed" populations, rather than just closed populations as assumed by the models.

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