, Volume 149, Issue 2, pp 265–275 | Cite as

Spatial refuge from intraguild predation: implications for prey suppression and trophic cascades

  • Deborah L. Finke
  • Robert F. Denno
Community Ecology


The ability of predators to elicit a trophic cascade with positive impacts on primary productivity may depend on the complexity of the habitat where the players interact. In structurally-simple habitats, trophic interactions among predators, such as intraguild predation, can diminish the cascading effects of a predator community on herbivore suppression and plant biomass. However, complex habitats may provide a spatial refuge for predators from intraguild predation, enhance the collective ability of multiple predator species to limit herbivore populations, and thus increase the overall strength of a trophic cascade on plant productivity. Using the community of terrestrial arthropods inhabiting Atlantic coastal salt marshes, this study examined the impact of predation by an assemblage of predators containing Pardosa wolf spiders, Grammonota web-building spiders, and Tytthus mirid bugs on herbivore populations (Prokelisia planthoppers) and on the biomass of Spartina cordgrass in simple (thatch-free) and complex (thatch-rich) vegetation. We found that complex-structured habitats enhanced planthopper suppression by the predator assemblage because habitats with thatch provided a refuge for predators from intraguild predation including cannibalism. The ultimate result of reduced antagonistic interactions among predator species and increased prey suppression was enhanced conductance of predator effects through the food web to positively impact primary producers. Behavioral observations in the laboratory confirmed that intraguild predation occurred in the simple, thatch-free habitat, and that the encounter and capture rates of intraguild prey by intraguild predators was diminished in the presence of thatch. On the other hand, there was no effect of thatch on the encounter and capture rates of herbivores by predators. The differential impact of thatch on the susceptibility of intraguild and herbivorous prey resulted in enhanced top-down effects in the thatch-rich habitat. Therefore, changes in habitat complexity can enhance trophic cascades by predator communities and positively impact productivity by moderating negative interactions among predators.


Habitat complexity Intraguild predation Multi-trophic interactions Predator diversity Salt marsh 



This manuscript greatly benefited from the comments of Pedro Barbosa, James Cronin, Galen Dively, William Fagan, Charles Mitter, Oswald Schmitz, and two anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by National Science Foundation grants to R.F.D. (DEB-0313903) and D.L.F. (DEB-0410572). All experiments comply with current USA laws.


  1. Agrawal AA, Karban R (1997) Domatia mediate plant–arthropod mutualism. Nature 387:562–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borer ET, Briggs CJ, Murdoch WW, Swarbrick SL (2003) Testing intraguild predation theory in a field system: does numerical dominance shift along a gradient of productivity? Ecol Lett 6:929–935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clark TL, Messina FJ (1998) Foraging behavior of lacewing larvae (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) on plants with divergent architectures. J Insect Behav 11:303–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cook A, Denno RF (1994) Planthopper/plant interactions: feeding behavior, plant nutrition, plant defense, and host plant specialization. In: Denno RF, Perfect TJ (eds) Planthoppers: their ecology and management. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 114–139Google Scholar
  5. Corkum LD, Cronin DJ (2004) Habitat complexity reduces aggression and enhances consumption in crayfish. J Ethol 22:23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Denno RF, Gratton C, Peterson MA, Langellotto GA, Finke DL, Huberty AF (2002) Bottom-up forces mediate natural-enemy impact in a phytophagous insect community. Ecology 83:1443–1458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Denno RF, Lewis D, Gratton C (2005) Spatial variation in the relative strength of top-down and bottom-up forces: causes and consequences for phytophagous insect populations. Ann Zool Fenn 42:295–311Google Scholar
  8. Denno RF, Mitter MS, Langellotto GA, Gratton C, Finke DL (2004) Interactions between a hunting spider and a web-builder: consequences of intraguild predation and cannibalism for prey suppression. Ecol Entomol 29:566–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Denno RF et al (1996) Habitat persistence underlies intraspecific variation in the dispersal strategies of planthoppers. Ecol Monogr 66:389–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Döbel HG, Denno RF (1994) Predator–planthopper interactions. In: Denno RF, Perfect TJ (eds) Planthoppers: their ecology and management. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 325–399Google Scholar
  11. Döbel HG, Denno RF, Coddington JA (1990) Spider (Araneae) community structure in an intertidal salt marsh: effects of vegetation structure and tidal flooding. Environ Entomol 19:1356–1370Google Scholar
  12. Eklov P, Persson L (1995) Species-specific antipredator capacities and prey refuges: interactions between piscivorous perch (Perca fluviatilis) and juvenile perch and roach (Rutilus rutilus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 37:169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Finke DL (2005) Predator diversity, habitat complexity and the strength of terrestrial trophic cascades. Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  14. Finke DL, Denno RF (2002) Intraguild predation diminished in complex-structured vegetation: implications for prey suppression. Ecology 83:643–652Google Scholar
  15. Finke DL, Denno RF (2003) Intra-guild predation relaxes natural enemy impacts on herbivore populations. Ecol Entomol 28:67–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Finke DL, Denno RF (2004) Predator diversity dampens trophic cascades. Nature 429:407–410PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Finke DL, Denno RF (2005) Predator diversity and the functioning of ecosystems: the role of intraguild predation in dampening trophic cascades. Ecol Lett 8:1299–1306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grabowski JH (2004) Habitat complexity disrupts predator–prey interactions but not the trophic cascade on oyster reefs. Ecology 85:995–1004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Griffen BD, Byers JE (2006) Partitioning mechanisms of predator interference in different habitats. Oecologia 146:608–614PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hines J (2004) Nutrient and structural effects of detritus on food web interactions in an intertidal marsh. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  21. Holt RD, Polis GA (1997) A theoretical framework for intraguild predation. Am Nat 149:745–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jolliffe PA (2000) The replacement series. J Ecol 88:371–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Landis DA, Wratten SD, Gurr GM (2000) Habitat management to conserve natural enemies of arthropod pests in agriculture. Annu Rev Entomol 45:175–201PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Langellotto G (2002) The aggregation of invertebrate predators in complex habitats: ecological mechanisms and practical applications. PhD Dissertation, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  25. Langellotto GA, Denno RF (2004) Responses of invertebrate natural enemies to complex-structured habitats: a meta-analytical synthesis. Oecologia 139:1–10PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Matsumura M, Trafelet-Smith G, Gratton C, Finke DL, Fagan WF, Denno RF (2004) Does intraguild predation enhance predator performance? A stoichiometric perspective. Ecology 85:2601–2615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McCann KS, Hastings A, Strong DR (1998) Trophic cascades and trophic trickles in pelagic food webs. Proc R Soc Lond B 265:205–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McNett BJ, Rypstra AL (2000) Habitat selection in a large orb-weaving spider: vegetational complexity determines site selection and distribution. Ecol Entomol 25:423–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Norton AP, English-Loeb G, Belden E (2001) Host plant manipulation of natural enemies: leaf domatia protect beneficial mites from insect predators. Oecologia 126:535–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Perry G, Pianka ER (1997) Animal foraging: past, present and future. Trends Ecol Evol 12:360–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Polis GA, Myers CA, Holt RD (1989) The ecology and evolution of intraguild predation: potential competitors that eat each other. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 20:297–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Polis GA, Strong DR (1996) Food web complexity and community dynamics. Am Nat 147:813–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Redfield AC (1972) Development of a New England salt marsh. Ecol Monogr 42:201–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roda A, Nyrop J, Dicke M, English-Loeb G (2000) Trichomes and spider-mite webbing protect predatory mite eggs from intraguild predation. Oecologia 125:428–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rosenheim JA, Corbett A (2003) Omnivory and the indeterminacy of predator function: can a knowledge of foraging behavior help? Ecology 84:2538-2548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rosenheim JA, Glik TE, Goeriz RE, Rämert B (2004) Linking a predator’s foraging behavior with its effects on herbivore population suppression. Ecology 85:3362–3372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenheim JA, Kaya HK, Ehler LE, Marois JJ, Jaffee BA (1995) Intraguild predation among biological-control agents: theory and evidence. Biol Control 5:303–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rypstra AL, Samu F (2005) Size dependent intraguild predation and cannibalism in coexisting wolf spiders (Aranae: Lycosidae). J Arachnol 33:390–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. SAS (2002) SAS version 9.1. SAS Institute, Cary, N.C., USAGoogle Scholar
  40. Savino JF, Stein RA (1982) Predator–prey interaction between largemouth bass and bluegills as influenced by simulated, submersed vegetation. Trans Am Fish Soc 111:255–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Savino JF, Stein RA (1989) Behavioural interactions between fish predators and their prey: effects of plant density. Anim Behav 37:311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schmitz OJ, Krivan V, Ovadia O (2004) Trophic cascades: the primacy of trait-mediated indirect interactions. Ecol Lett 7:153–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sih A, Englund G, Wooster D (1998) Emergent impacts of multiple predators on prey. Trends Ecol Evol 13:350–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Snyder WE, Ives AR (2001) Generalist predators disrupt biological control by a specialist parasitoid. Ecology 82:705–716Google Scholar
  45. Snyder WE, Wise DH (2001) Contrasting trophic cascades generated by a community of generalist predators. Ecology 82:1571–1583Google Scholar
  46. Strong DR (1992) Are trophic cascades all wet? Differentiation and donor-control in speciose ecosystems. Ecology 73:747–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Uetz GW (1979) The influence of variation in litter habitats on spider communities. Oecologia 40:29–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Warfe DM, Barmuta LA (2004) Habitat structural complexity mediates foraging success of multiple predator species. Behav Ecol 141:171–178Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

Personalised recommendations