Ecological Research

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 481–493 | Cite as

Effects of productivity, disturbance, and ecosystem size on food-chain length: insights from a metacommunity model of intraguild predation

  • Gaku Takimoto
  • David M. Post
  • David A. Spiller
  • Robert D. Holt
Miyadi Award


Traditionally, productivity and disturbance have been hypothesized as important determinants of food-chain length. More recently, growing empirical evidence suggests a strong role of ecosystem size. To theoretically explore the effects of basal productivity, disturbance, and ecosystem size on food-chain length, we develop and analyze a metacommunity model of intraguild predation (IGP). The model finds that, when local IGP is weak, increasing basal productivity, weakening disturbance, and increasing ecosystem size will generally increase food-chain length. When local IGP is strong, by contrast, increasing basal productivity or weakening disturbance favors intraguild predators and hinders the coexistence of intraguild predators and intraguild prey, limiting food-chain length. In contrast, increasing ecosystem size can promote coexistence even when local IGP is strong, increasing food-chain length through inserting intraguild prey and changing the degree of omnivory by intraguild predators. Intraguild prey needs to be the superior colonizer to intraguild predators for this to occur. We discuss that these theoretical predictions appear consistent with empirical patterns.


Disturbance Ecosystem size Food-chain length Intraguild predation Metacommunity Productivity 



This research was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (21770091 and 23710285 to GT), and by the National Science Foundation (DEB-0516431 to DS).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material (PDF 86 kb)
11284_2012_929_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (29 kb)
Supplementary material (PDF 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaku Takimoto
    • 1
  • David M. Post
    • 2
  • David A. Spiller
    • 3
  • Robert D. Holt
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceToho UniversityFunabashiJapan
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Section of Evolution and Ecology, One Shields AvenueUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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