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Bottom-up and top-down processes interact to modify intraguild interactions in resource-pulse environments

Abstract

Top predators are declining globally, in turn allowing populations of smaller predators, or mesopredators, to increase and potentially have negative effects on biodiversity. However, detection of interactions among sympatric predators can be complicated by fluctuations in the background availability of resources in the environment, which may modify both the numbers of predators and the strengths of their interactions. Here, we first present a conceptual framework that predicts how top-down and bottom-up interactions may regulate sympatric predator populations in environments that experience resource pulses. We then test it using 2 years of remote-camera trapping data to uncover spatial and temporal interactions between a top predator, the dingo Canis dingo, and the mesopredatory European red fox Vulpes vulpes and feral cat Felis catus, during population booms, declines and busts in numbers of their prey in a model desert system. We found that dingoes predictably suppress abundances of the mesopredators and that the effects are strongest during declines and busts in prey numbers. Given that resource pulses are usually driven by large yet infrequent rains, we conclude that top predators like the dingo provide net benefits to prey populations by suppressing mesopredators during prolonged bust periods when prey populations are low and potentially vulnerable.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Bush Heritage Australia and G. Woods for allowing access to the properties in the study region; members of the Desert Ecology Research Group, N. Hills, D. Nelson and G. Madani for valuable assistance in the field, and V. Nguyen for statistical advice. A. C. G. was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and Paddy Pallin Grant, Royal Zoological Society of NSW. Funding support for G. W. and C. D. was provided by the Australian Research Council and by the Australian Government’s Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (http://www.tern.gov.au), an Australian research infrastructure facility established under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and Education Infrastructure Fund—Super Science Initiative through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

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Correspondence to Aaron C. Greenville.

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Communicated by Ilpo Kojola.

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Greenville, A.C., Wardle, G.M., Tamayo, B. et al. Bottom-up and top-down processes interact to modify intraguild interactions in resource-pulse environments. Oecologia 175, 1349–1358 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-2977-8

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Keywords

  • Apex predators
  • Biodiversity
  • Boom and bust
  • Mesopredator release
  • Depredation