, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 265-274

Relative strengths of top-down and bottom-up forces in a tropical forest community

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Abstract

We tested integrative bottom-up and top-down trophic cascade hypotheses with manipulative experiments in a tropical wet forest, using the ant-plant Piper cenocladum and its associated arthropod community. We examined enhanced nutrients and light along with predator and herbivore exclusions as sources of variation in the relative biomass of plants, their herbivores (via rates of herbivory), and resident predaceous ants. The combined manipulations of secondary consumers, primary consumers, and plant resources allowed us to examine some of the direct and indirect effects on each trophic level and to determine the relative contributions of bottom-up and top-down cascades to the structure of the community. We found that enhanced plant resources (nutrients and light) had direct positive effects on plant biomass. However, we found no evidence of indirect (cascading through the herbivores) effects of plant biomass on predators or top predators. In contrast, ants had indirect effects on plant biomass by decreasing herbivory on the plants. This top-down cascade occurred whether or not plant resources were enriched, conditions which are expected to modify top-down forces.