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Ecol Lett. 2019 Nov;22(11):1734-1745. doi: 10.1111/ele.13334. Epub 2019 Aug 7.

Predation risk influences food-web structure by constraining species diet choice.

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Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK.
School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, NZ.
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ, UK.


The foraging behaviour of species determines their diet and, therefore, also emergent food-web structure. Optimal foraging theory (OFT) has previously been applied to understand the emergence of food-web structure through a consumer-centric consideration of diet choice. However, the resource-centric viewpoint, where species adjust their behaviour to reduce the risk of predation, has not been considered. We develop a mechanistic model that merges metabolic theory with OFT to incorporate the effect of predation risk on diet choice to assemble food webs. This 'predation-risk-compromise' (PR) model better captures the nestedness and modularity of empirical food webs relative to the classical optimal foraging model. Specifically, compared with optimal foraging alone, risk-mitigated foraging leads to more-nested but less-modular webs by broadening the diet of consumers at intermediate trophic levels. Thus, predation risk significantly affects food-web structure by constraining species' ability to forage optimally, and needs to be considered in future work.


Diet choice; food-web structure; food-web topology; metabolic theory; modularity; nestedness; optimal foraging; predation risk

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