Send to

Choose Destination
Am Nat. 2001 Mar;157(3):262-81. doi: 10.1086/319190.

Terrestrial trophic cascades: how much do they trickle?

Author information

Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0091, USA.


Although more consensus is now emerging on the magnitude and frequency of cascading trophic effects in aquatic communities, the debate over their terrestrial counterparts continues. We used meta-analysis to analyze field experiments on trophic cascades in terrestrial arthropod-dominated food webs to evaluate the overall magnitude of trophic cascades and conditions affecting their occurrence and strength. We found extensive support for the presence of trophic cascades in terrestrial communities. In the majority of experiments, predator removal led to increased densities of herbivorous insects and higher levels of plant damage. Cascades in which removing predators led to decreased herbivory also were detected but were less frequent and weaker, suggesting a predominantly three-trophic-level behavior of arthropod-dominated terrestrial food webs. Despite the clear evidence that cascades often decreased plant damage, residual effects of predation produced either no or only minimal changes in overall plant biomass. Agricultural systems and natural communities exhibited similarly strong effects of predation on herbivore abundance. However, resulting effects on plant damage and community-wide effects of trophic cascades on plant biomass usually were highly variable, and only in the managed agricultural systems did predators occasionally have strong indirect effects on plant biomass. Our meta-analysis suggests that the effects of trophic cascades on the biomass of primary producers are weaker in terrestrial than aquatic food webs.


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for University of Chicago Press
Loading ...
Support Center