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Ecology. 2009 Sep;90(9):2346-51.

Climate warming strengthens indirect interactions in an old-field food web.

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  • 1School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511-8014, USA.


Climate change is expected to alter trophic interactions within food chains, but predicting the fate of particular species is difficult because the predictions hinge on knowing exactly how climate influences direct and indirect interactions. We used two complementary approaches to examine how climate change may alter trophic interactions within an old-field food web composed of herbaceous plants, grasshopper herbivores, and spider predators. We synthesized data spanning 15 years of experimentation during which interannual mean growing season temperature varied by 2 degrees C and precipitation by 2.5 cm. We also manipulated temperature within mesocosms to test the affect of temperature on primary production and strength of direct and indirect trophic interactions. Both approaches produced similar results: plant production was not directly affected by temperature or precipitation, but the strength of top-down indirect effects on grasses and forbs increased by 30-40% per 1 degrees C. Hence, the net effect of climate change was to strengthen top-down control of this terrestrial system.

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