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Consumptive effects and mismatch in predator–prey turnover rates cause inversion of biomass pyramids

de Omena, Paula M., Srivastava, Diane S., Romero, Gustavo Q.
Oecologia 2019 v.190 no.1 pp. 159-168
Bromeliaceae, Zygoptera, biomass, ecological succession, ecosystems, larvae, predators
The mismatch between the turnover rates of predators and prey is one of the oldest explanations for the existence of inverted trophic pyramids. To date, the hypotheses regarding trophic pyramids have all been based on consumptive trophic links between predators and prey, and the relative contribution of non-consumptive effects is still unknown. In this study, we investigated if the inversion of pyramids in bromeliad ecosystems is driven by (i) a rapid colonization of organisms having short cohort interval production (CPI), and (ii) the prevalence of consumptive or non-consumptive effects of top predators. We used a manipulative experiment to investigate the patterns of prey colonization and to partition the net effects of the dominant predator (damselfly larvae) on biomass pyramids into consumptive (uncaged damselfly larvae) and non-consumptive effects (caged damselfly larvae). Consumptive effects of damselflies strengthened the inversion of trophic pyramids. Non-consumptive effects, however, did not affect the shape of biomass pyramids. Instead, the rapid colonization of organisms with predominantly short CPI sustained the large biomass of top predators found in natural bromeliad ecosystems. Prey colonized bromeliads rapidly, but this high production was never visible as standing stock because damselflies reduce prey densities by more than a magnitude through direct consumption. Our study adds to the growing evidence that there are a variety of possible ways that biomass can be trophically structured. Moreover, we suggest that the strength of biomass pyramids inversion may change with the time of ecological succession as prey communities become more equitable.