Indirect control of decomposition by an invertebrate predator

Walker, Alice EL, Robertson, Mark P, Eggleton, Paul, Bunney, Katherine, Lamb, Candice, Fisher, Adam M and Parr, Catherine L ORCID: 0000-0003-1627-763X
(2022) Indirect control of decomposition by an invertebrate predator. Functional Ecology, 36 (12). pp. 2943-2954.

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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p> <jats:list> <jats:list-item><jats:p>Understanding the factors that control decomposition is critical for predicting how the carbon cycle will alter with global change. Until recently, the accepted paradigm was that climate primarily drives decomposition rates, and interactions among decomposers only control variation at finer scales. Although it is now understood that biotic agents can play an important role, we know less about the importance of species interactions with a lack of field experiments at a large scale. Predation is a key ecological interaction that could influence decomposition by directly or indirectly regulating the abundances of decomposer organisms, but a comprehensive understanding of the cascading effects that predation can have on decomposition, particularly at large scales, is missing.</jats:p></jats:list-item> <jats:list-item><jats:p>Here we report on an experiment where we suppressed the abundance of ants, which are major predators of termites, at a hectare scale in a natural African savanna and examined how this affected the decomposition of three common substrates (wood, grass and dung).</jats:p></jats:list-item> <jats:list-item><jats:p>Our study revealed that ants exert considerable top‐down control on decomposition via their predation of termites: decomposition of wood, grass and dung increased by 98%, 74% and 84% with ant suppression, respectively. Suppression of ants increased termite activity and consequently resulted in increased termite‐mediated decomposition. Remarkably, for all substrates, the suppression of ants nearly doubled decomposition by termites. Additionally, for grass and dung substrates, the dominant agent of decomposition switched from microbes to termites with ant suppression.</jats:p></jats:list-item> <jats:list-item><jats:p>Our study highlights the critical importance of considering species interactions in decomposition studies, particularly given declines in predatory species in the Anthropocene.</jats:p></jats:list-item> </jats:list> </jats:p><jats:p>Read the free <jats:ext-link xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="">Plain Language Summary</jats:ext-link> for this article on the Journal blog.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: biotic interactions, ecosystem functioning, predator-prey, savanna, trophic cascade
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2022 10:19
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2023 02:56
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.14198
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