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Refuge quality impacts the strength of nonconsumptive effects on prey

Donelan, Sarah C., Grabowski, Jonathan H., Trussell, Geoffrey C.
Ecology 2017 v.98 no.2 pp. 403-411
food chain, foraging, littoral zone, predation, predators, risk
Prey often retreat into the safety of refuges for protection from predators. This shift into refuge can reduce foraging opportunities, escalating the costs of risk and the strength of nonconsumptive effects. Such costs, however, may be shaped by the variation in resources that refuges harbor for prey foraging (i.e., refuge quality), and change dynamically via impacts on prey state. Despite its potential importance, we lack an explicit understanding of how refuge quality impacts prey performance under risk. Using a rocky intertidal food chain, we examined the interaction between predation risk and the amount of resources available for prey in refuge. We found that refuges with more resources greatly reduce the costs of refuge use, and that nonconsumptive effects are thereby weakened by as much as one‐half, with especially strong impacts on prey growth and growth efficiency. These results suggest that failure to consider refuge quality could result in overestimation of the negative effects associated with prey refuge use.