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Predator‐prey interactions cause apparent competition between marine zooplankton groups

Stige, Leif Christian, Kvile, Kristina Ø., Bogstad, Bjarte, Langangen, Øystein
Ecology 2018 v.99 no.3 pp. 632-641
Copepoda, Mallotus villosus, biomass, climate change, fish, harvesting, krill, marine ecosystems, marine environment, planktivores, predator-prey relationships, prey species, statistical models, zooplankton, Barents Sea
Predator‐mediated apparent competition is an indirect negative interaction between two prey species mediated by a shared predator. Quantifying such indirect ecosystem effects is methodologically challenging but important for understanding ecosystem functioning. Still, there are few examples of apparent competition from pelagic marine environments. Using state‐space statistical modeling, we here provide evidence for apparent competition between two dominant zooplankton groups in a large marine ecosystem, i.e., krill and copepods in the Barents Sea. This effect is mediated by a positive association between krill biomass and survival of the main planktivorous fish in the Barents Sea, capelin Mallotus villosus, and a negative association between capelin and copepod biomasses. The biomass of Atlantic krill species is expected to increase in the Barents Sea due to ongoing climate change, thereby potentially negatively affecting copepods through apparent competition. By demonstrating and quantifying apparent competition in a large marine ecosystem, our study paves the way for more realistic projections of indirect ecosystem effects of climate change and harvesting.