|Title||Why Are Predators More Sensitive to Habitat Size than Their Prey? Insights from Bromeliad Insect Food Webs.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|Authors||Srivastava, DS, Trzcinski, MK, Richardson, B, Gilbert, J|
|Journal||The American Naturalist|
|Keywords||incidence functions, phytotelmata, predation, species-area relationship, trophic rank hypothesis|
Ecologists have hypothesized that the exponent of species-area power functions (z value) should increase with trophic level. The main explanation for this pattern has been that specialist predators require prior colonization of a patch by their prey, resulting in a compounding of the effects of area up trophic levels. We propose two novel explanations, neither of which assumes trophic coupling between species. First, sampling effects can result in different z values if the abundances of species differ (in mean or evenness) between trophic levels. Second, when body size increases between trophic levels, effects of body size on z values may appear as differences between trophic levels. We test these alternative explanations using invertebrate food webs in 280 bromeliads from three countries. The z value of predators was higher than that of prey. Much of the difference in z values could be explained by sampling effects but not by body size effects. When damselflies occurred in the species pool, predator z values were even higher than predicted, as damselflies avoid small, drought-prone bromeliads. In one habitat, dwarf forests, detrital biomass became decoupled from bromeliad size, which also caused large trophic differences in z values. We argue that there are often simpler explanations than trophic coupling to explain differences in z values between trophic levels.