Foodwebs based on unreliable foundations: spatiotemporal masting merged with consumer movement, storage, and diet


Journal Article

© 2019 by the Ecological Society of America Mast-fruiting trees represent a pulsed resource that both supports and destabilizes consumer populations. Whereas a reliable resource is abundant on average and with limited variation in time and space, masting is volatile and localized, and that variability ramifies throughout food-webs. Theory is developed to evaluate how the space–time structure of masting interacts with consumers who exploit alternative hosts, forage widely in space, and store reserves in time. We derive the space–time–species covariance in resource supply and combine it with the space–time–diet breadth of consumers, or ambit. Direct connection to data is made possible with Mast Inference and Forecasting (MASTIF), a state-space autoregressive model that fits seed-trap and canopy observations and predicts resource availability within the canopy and on the forest floor with full uncertainty. A resource score can be assigned to each consumer–habitat combination that integrates the benefits of a high mean supply weighed against the variance cost. As the consumer ambit increases, the volatility of an unreliable resource shifts from a variance cost to a mean benefit. Consumers foraging in the canopy (arboreal arthropods and rodents, song birds) experience space-time covariance between host trees. Consumers on the forest floor (seed and damping-off fungi, arthropods, rodents, ground-nesting birds, mammals) experience instead a redistribution of that covariance by dispersal. For consumers lacking mobility, demographic storage in the form of episodic birth cohorts following mast years is important for population persistence. Consumers additionally compensate volatility with diet breadth. Depending on the dominant masting strategies of host tree species in the diet, habitats differentially limit consumers depending on the misalignment between consumer ambit and spatiotemporal covariance of hosts. The impact of adding or subtracting a diet item can be gauged with the standard error (SE) rule or the benefit of an added diet item balanced against the variance cost, both of which depend on the existing diet, the abundance of the new host, and the consumer's foraging ambit. Results rank habitats by their capacities to support wildlife and other consumers from a resource perspective. Results are connected directly to data, with full uncertainty, by MASTIF.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Clark, JS; Nuñez, CL; Tomasek, B

Published Date

  • November 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 89 / 4

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1557-7015

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0012-9615

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ecm.1381

Citation Source

  • Scopus