Nonlinearities Lead to Qualitative Differences in Population Dynamics of Predator-Prey Systems

O. Ameixa, G.J. Messelink, P. Kindlmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Since typically there are many predators feeding on most herbivores in natural communities, understanding multiple predator effects is critical for both community and applied ecology. Experiments of multiple predator effects on prey populations are extremely demanding, as the number of treatments and the amount of labour associated with these experiments increases exponentially with the number of species in question. Therefore, researchers tend to vary only presence/absence of the species and use only one (supposedly realistic) combination of their numbers in experiments. However, nonlinearities in density dependence, functional responses, interactions between natural enemies etc. are typical for such systems, and nonlinear models of population dynamics generally predict qualitatively different results, if initial absolute densities of the species studied differ, even if their relative densities are maintained. Therefore, testing combinations of natural enemies without varying their densities may not be sufficient. Here we test this prediction experimentally. We show that the population dynamics of a system consisting of 2 natural enemies (aphid predator Adalia bipunctata (L.), and aphid parasitoid, Aphidius colemani Viereck) and their shared prey (peach aphid, Myzus persicae Sulzer) are strongly affected by the absolute initial densities of the species in question. Even if their relative densities are kept constant, the natural enemy species or combination thereof that most effectively suppresses the prey may depend on the absolute initial densities used in the experiment. Future empirical studies of multiple predator – one prey interactions should therefore use a two-dimensional array of initial densities of the studied species. Varying only combinations of natural enemies without varying their densities is not sufficient and can lead to misleading results.
Original languageDutch
Article numbere62530
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • intraguild predation
  • biological-control
  • aphid populations
  • field experiments
  • interspecific competition
  • ecological communities
  • emergent impacts
  • natural enemies
  • suppression
  • consequences

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