Effects of productivity, disturbance, and ecosystem size on food-chain length: insights from a metacommunity model of intraguild predation
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- Takimoto, G., Post, D.M., Spiller, D.A. et al. Ecol Res (2012) 27: 481. doi:10.1007/s11284-012-0929-5
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.