Predator-driven elemental cycling: the impact of predation and risk effects on ecosystem stoichiometry

Leroux, Shawn and Schmitz, Oswald J. (2015) Predator-driven elemental cycling: the impact of predation and risk effects on ecosystem stoichiometry. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (21). pp. 4976-4988. ISSN 2045-7758

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Empirical evidence is beginning to show that predators can be important drivers of elemental cycling within ecosystems by propagating indirect effects that determine the distribution of elements among trophic levels as well as determine the chemical content of organic matter that becomes decomposed by microbes. These indirect effects can be propagated by predator consumptive effects on prey, nonconsumptive (risk) effects, or a combination of both. Currently, there is insufficient theory to predict how such predator effects should propagate throughout ecosystems. We present here a theoretical framework for exploring predator effects on ecosystem elemental cycling to encourage further empirical quantification. We use a classic ecosystem trophic compartment model as a basis for our analyses but infuse principles from ecological stoichiometry into the analyses of elemental cycling. Using a combined analytical-numerical approach, we compare how predators affect cycling through consumptive effects in which they control the flux of nutrients up trophic chains; through risk effects in which they change the homeostatic elemental balance of herbivore prey which accordingly changes the element ratio herbivores select from plants; and through a combination of both effects. Our analysis reveals that predators can have quantitatively important effects on elemental cycling, relative to a model formalism that excludes predator effects. Furthermore, the feedbacks due to predator nonconsumptive effects often have the quantitatively strongest impact on whole ecosystem elemental stocks, production and efficiency rates, and recycling fluxes by changing the stoichiometric balance of all trophic levels. Our modeling framework predictably shows how bottom-up control by microbes and top-down control by predators on ecosystems become interdependent when top predator effects permeate ecosystems.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 11882
Additional Information: Memorial University Open Access Author's Fund
Keywords: Carbon cycling, nitrogen cycling, physiological plasticity, predator consumptive effects, predator nonconsumptive effects, trophic cascade
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: 15 October 2015
Date Type: Publication
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