Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 55–71 | Cite as

Trophic and functional cascades in tropical versus temperate aquatic microcosms



Inverse trophic cascades are a well explored and common consequence of the local depletion or extinction of top predators in natural ecosystems. Despite a large body of research, the cascading effects of predator removal on ecosystem functions are not as well understood. Developing microcosm experiments, we explored food web changes in trophic structure and ecosystem functioning following biomass removal of top predators in representative temperate and tropical rock pool communities that contained similar assemblages of zooplankton and benthic invertebrates. We observed changes in species abundances following predator removal in both temperate and tropical communities, in line with expected inverse effects of a trophic cascade, where predation release benefits the predator’s preys and competitors and impacts the preys of the latter. We also observed several changes at the community and ecosystem levels including a decrease in total abundance and mean trophic level of the community, and changes in chlorophyll-a and total dissolved particles. Our results also showed an increase in variability of both community and ecosystem processes following the removal of predators. These results illustrate how predator removal can lead to inverse trophic cascades both in structural and functioning properties, and can increase variability of ecosystem processes. Although observed patterns were consistent between tropical and temperate communities following an inverse cascade pattern, changes were more pronounced in the temperate community. Therefore, aquatic food webs may have inherent traits that condition ecosystem responses to changes in top-down trophic control and render some aquatic ecosystems especially sensitive to the removals of top predators.


Microcosms Food webs Rock pools Predator removal Trophic cascade Ecosystem functioning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine Science (ICM-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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