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Ecology. 2007 Nov;88(11):2713-9.

Habitat structure affects intraguild predation.

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IBED, Section Population Biology, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94084, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Intraguild predation is thought to be ubiquitous in natural food webs. Yet, theory on intraguild predation predicts the intraguild prey to persist only under limited conditions. This gap between theory and empirical observations needs scrutiny. One reason might be that theory has focused on equilibrium dynamics and a limited set of species (usually three) that interact in well-mixed populations in unstructured habitats, and these assumptions will often not hold in natural systems. In this review, we focus on the effects of habitat structure on intraguild predation. Habitat structure could reduce encounter rates between predators and prey and could create refuges for prey. In both cases, habitat structure could reduce the strength of intraguild interactions, thereby facilitating species coexistence. A meta-analysis of studies on manipulation of habitat structure shows that intraguild prey indeed suffer less from intraguild predation in structured habitats. This was further confirmed by a meta-analysis in which studies on intraguild predation were classified according to habitat structure. Intraguild predation reduced densities of the intraguild prey significantly more in habitats with little structure than in habitats rich in structure. The effect of intraguild predation on the shared prey was negative, and not significantly affected by habitat structure. We conclude that habitat structure may increase persistence of the intraguild prey by decreasing the strength of the interaction between intraguild predator and intraguild prey.

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