Community-wide distribution of predator-prey interaction strength in kelp forests

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Enric Sala, Michael H Graham


The strength of interactions between predators and their prey (interaction strength) varies enormously among species within ecological communities. Understanding the community-wide distribution of interaction strengths is vital, given that communities dominated by weak interactions may be more stable and resistant to invasion. In the oceans, previous studies have reported log-normal distributions of per capita interaction strength. We estimated the distribution of predator-prey interaction strengths within a subtidal speciose herbivore community (45 species). Laboratory experiments were used to determine maximum per capita interaction strengths for eight species of herbivores (including amphipods, isopods, gastropods, and sea urchins) that graze on giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) microscopic stages. We found that maximum per capita interaction strength saturated as a function of individual herbivore biomass, likely caused by predator/prey size thresholds. Incorporating this nonlinearity, we predicted maximum per capita interaction strength for the remaining herbivore species. The resulting distribution of per capita interaction strengths was bimodal, in striking contrast to previous reports from other communities. Although sm...Continue Reading


Jun 17, 1998·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·J L Ruesink

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