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Toward a trophic theory of species diversity.

Publication ,  Journal Article
Terborgh, JW
Published in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
September 2015

Efforts to understand the ecological regulation of species diversity via bottom-up approaches have failed to yield a consensus theory. Theories based on the alternative of top-down regulation have fared better. Paine's discovery of keystone predation demonstrated that the regulation of diversity via top-down forcing could be simple, strong, and direct, yet ecologists have persistently failed to perceive generality in Paine's result. Removing top predators destabilizes many systems and drives transitions to radically distinct alternative states. These transitions typically involve community reorganization and loss of diversity, implying that top-down forcing is crucial to diversity maintenance. Contrary to the expectations of bottom-up theories, many terrestrial herbivores and mesopredators are capable of sustained order-of-magnitude population increases following release from predation, negating the assumption that populations of primary consumers are resource limited and at or near carrying capacity. Predation sensu lato (to include Janzen-Connell mortality agents) has been shown to promote diversity in a wide range of ecosystems, including rocky intertidal shelves, coral reefs, the nearshore ocean, streams, lakes, temperate and tropical forests, and arctic tundra. The compelling variety of these ecosystems suggests that top-down forcing plays a universal role in regulating diversity. This conclusion is further supported by studies showing that the reduction or absence of predation leads to diversity loss and, in the more dramatic cases, to catastrophic regime change. Here, I expand on the thesis that diversity is maintained by the interaction between predation and competition, such that strong top-down forcing reduces competition, allowing coexistence.

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Published In

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

DOI

EISSN

1091-6490

ISSN

0027-8424

Publication Date

September 2015

Volume

112

Issue

37

Start / End Page

11415 / 11422

Related Subject Headings

  • Species Specificity
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Population Dynamics
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Models, Biological
  • Herbivory
  • Food Chain
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Ecosystem
  • Ecology
 

Citation

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Terborgh, J. W. (2015). Toward a trophic theory of species diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(37), 11415–11422. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1501070112
Terborgh, John W. “Toward a trophic theory of species diversity.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112, no. 37 (September 2015): 11415–22. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1501070112.
Terborgh JW. Toward a trophic theory of species diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 Sep;112(37):11415–22.
Terborgh, John W. “Toward a trophic theory of species diversity.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 112, no. 37, Sept. 2015, pp. 11415–22. Epmc, doi:10.1073/pnas.1501070112.
Terborgh JW. Toward a trophic theory of species diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 Sep;112(37):11415–11422.
Journal cover image

Published In

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

DOI

EISSN

1091-6490

ISSN

0027-8424

Publication Date

September 2015

Volume

112

Issue

37

Start / End Page

11415 / 11422

Related Subject Headings

  • Species Specificity
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Population Dynamics
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Models, Biological
  • Herbivory
  • Food Chain
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Ecosystem
  • Ecology