Species have strong indirect effects on others, and predicting these effects is a central challenge in ecology. Prey species sharing an enemy (predator or parasitoid) can be linked by apparent competition, but it is unknown whether this process is strong enough to be a community-wide structuring mechanism that could be used to predict future states of diverse food webs. Whether species abundances are spatially coupled by enemy movement across different habitats is also untested. Here, using a field experiment, we show that predicted apparent competitive effects between species, mediated via shared parasitoids, can significantly explain future parasitism rates and herbivore abundances. These predictions are successful even across edges between natural and managed forests, following experimental reduction of herbivore densities by aerial spraying of insecticide over 20 hectares. This result shows that trophic indirect effects propagate across networks and habitats in important, predictable ways, with implications for landscape planning, invasion biology and biological control.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)