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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15502-5. Epub 2006 Oct 5.

Predicted climate change alters the indirect effect of predators on an ecosystem process.

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Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, S-225 Agricultural Sciences Building North, Lexington, KY 40546-0091, USA.


Changes in rainfall predicted to occur with global climate change will likely alter rates of leaf-litter decomposition through direct effects on primary decomposers. In a field experiment replicated at two sites, we show that altered rainfall may also change how cascading trophic interactions initiated by arthropod predators in the leaf litter indirectly influence litter decomposition. On the drier site there was no interaction between rainfall and the indirect effect of predators on decomposition. In contrast, on the moister site spiders accelerated the disappearance rate of deciduous leaf litter under low rainfall, but had no, or possibly a negative, indirect effect under high rainfall. Thus, changes resulting from the more intense hydrological cycle expected to occur with climate change will likely influence how predators indirectly affect an essential ecosystem process.

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