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Am Nat. 2009 Mar;173(3):389-99. doi: 10.1086/596540.

Predation alters relationships between biodiversity and temporal stability.

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School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


Ecologists disagree on how diversity affects stability. At the heart of the controversy is the relationship between diversity and population stability, with conflicting findings from both theoretical and empirical studies. To help reconcile these results, we propose that this relationship may depend on trophic complexity, such that positive relations tend to emerge in multitrophic but not single-trophic communities. This hypothesis is based on the premise that stabilizing weak trophic interactions restrain population oscillations associated with strong trophic interactions in diverse multitrophic communities. We tested this hypothesis using simple freshwater bacterivorous protist communities differing in diversity with and without a predatory protist species. Coupling weak and strong trophic interactions reduced population temporal variability of the strong-interacting species, supporting the stabilizing role of weak interactions. In keeping with our hypothesis, predation altered the overall effect of diversity on population temporal stability and, in particular, caused a reversal of the diversity-stability relationship (negative without predators and positive with predators) for the strong-interacting species. A similar role of predation was also observed when examining the relationship between diversity and temporal stability of community biomass. Together, these findings demonstrated strong interactive effects of trophic interactions and diversity on temporal stability of population and community properties.

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