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Predator-prey body size, interaction strength and the stability of a real food web.

Emmerson, M.C. and Raffaelli, D. (2004) Predator-prey body size, interaction strength and the stability of a real food web. Journal of Animal Ecology, 73 (3). pp. 399-409. ISSN 0021-8790

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1. We examined the empirical relationship between predator–prey body size ratio and interaction strength in the Ythan Estuary food web.

2. We have refined a previously published version of the food web and explored how size-based predatory effects might affect food web dynamics. To do so, we used four predatory species Crangon crangon (Linnaeus), Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus), Pomatoschistus microps (Krøyer) and Platichthys flesus (Linnaeus) and one common prey species Corophium volutator (Pallas) from the food web.

3. All predators and prey were sorted into small, medium and large size classes and placed into mesocosms in all possible pairwise combinations of size and species identity to determine per capita effects of predators on prey (aij).

4. Using Lotka–Volterra dynamics the empirical body size relationships obtained from these experiments and other relationships already available for the Ythan Estuary, we parameterized a food web model for this system. The local stability properties of the resulting food web models were then determined.

5. We found that by choosing interaction strengths using an empirically defined scaling law, the resulting food web models are always dynamically stable, despite the residual uncertainties in the modelling approach. This contrasts with the statistical expectation that random webs with random parameters have a vanishingly improbable chance of stability.

6. The patterning of predator and prey body sizes in real ecosystems affects the arrangement of interaction strengths, which in turn determines food web stability.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Environment (York)
The University of York > Biology (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 14 May 2009 15:16
Last Modified: 14 May 2009 15:16
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0021-8790.2004.00818.x
Status: Published
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Identification Number: 10.1111/j.0021-8790.2004.00818.x
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6408

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