Community consequences of foraging under fear

Authored by Volker Grimm, Florian Jeltsch, Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, Lisa Teckentrup

Date Published: 2018

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2018.05.015

Sponsors: German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)

Platforms: NetLogo

Model Documentation: ODD Flow charts

Model Code URLs: Model code not found


Non-consumptive effects of predators within ecosystems can alter the behavior of individual prey species, and have cascading effects on other trophic levels. In this context, an understanding of non-consumptive predator effects on the whole prey community is crucial for predicting community structure and composition, hence biodiversity patterns. We used an individual-based, spatially-explicit modelling approach to investigate the consequences of landscapes of fear on prey community metrics. The model spans multiple hierarchical levels from individual home range formation based on food availability and perceived predation risk to consequences on prey community structure and composition. This mechanistic approach allowed us to explore how important factors such as refuge availability and foraging strategy under fear affect prey community metrics. Fear of predators affected prey space use, such as home range formation. These adaptations had broader consequences for the community leading to changes in community structure and composition. The strength of community responses to perceived predation risk was driven by refuge availability in the landscape and the foraging strategy of prey animals. Low refuge availability in the landscape strongly decreased diversity and total biomass of prey communities. Additionally, body mass distributions in prey communities facing high predation risk were shifted towards small prey animals. With increasing refuge availability the consequences of non-consumptive predator effects were reduced, diversity and total biomass of the prey community increased. Prey foraging strategies affected community composition. Under medium refuge availability, risk-averse prey communities consisted of many small animals while risk-taking prey communities showed a more even body mass distribution. Our findings reveal that non-consumptive predator effects can have important implications for prey community diversity and should therefore be considered in the context of conservation and nature management.
Predator-prey interactions Individual-based model Landscape of fear Home range Biodiversity Foraging Mediated indirect interactions Predation risk Ecological consequences Trophic interactions Temporal variation Microhabitat use Habitat loss Bottom-up Space use