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Community composition and consumer identity determine the effect of resource species diversity on rates of consumption

Narwani, Anita, Mazumder, Asit
Ecology 2010 v.91 no.12 pp. 3441-3447
community structure, diet, ecological function, freshwater, palatability, species diversity, trophic levels, zooplankton
The effect of species diversity on ecosystem function is commonly studied within a single trophic level, but less is known about how resource diversity affects species interactions between trophic levels. We conducted a grazing experiment to determine how resource species diversity affects rates of consumption by three species of freshwater zooplankton consumers. We measured the effect of resource diversity on rates of consumption for several resource community compositions. These compositions varied in terms of palatability for the consumers. The effect of resource diversity on consumption rates depended on the diet breadth of the consumer species (from specialist to generalist) and the community composition of resources. Overall, high resource diversity commonly caused a decline in consumption rates of consumers. The most selective grazer showed reduced consumption for nearly all community compositions, whereas the most generalist grazer showed accelerated consumption when all resource species were palatable. Our results demonstrate that resource species diversity can modulate rates of consumption through the action of multiple different mechanisms.