Table of Contents
ISRN Ecology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 160504, 11 pages
Research Article

Interactive Effects of Disturbance, Productivity, and Consumer Diversity on the Structure of Prey Communities

Department of Biological Sciences, Wayne State University, 5047 Gullen Mall, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

Received 17 December 2012; Accepted 8 January 2013

Academic Editors: M. Bishop, M. A. Molina-Montenegro, J. L. Nielsen, and S. Sabater

Copyright © 2013 Christopher F. Steiner. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Experiments show that consumer diversity can have important effects on the control of prey diversity and abundance. However, theory also indicates that the strength of consumer effects on such properties will vary depending on system productivity and disturbance regime. Using a laboratory-based system composed of ciliate consumers and bacterial prey, I explored the interactive effects of productivity, disturbance, and consumer diversity on prey diversity and trophic-level abundance. Consumer diversity had productivity-dependent effects on bacterial prey that were consistent with theoretical expectations. At low productivity, increasing consumer diversity reduced prey abundance while at high productivity no effects were detected due to compensatory responses among bacteria. In contrast, consumer diversity had weak effects on prey diversity at low productivity but significantly depressed prey diversity at high productivity. Disturbance on consumers enhanced prey diversity but did not alter consumer diversity effects on prey. These results indicate that consumer diversity may play an important role in the regulation of prey communities, but the strength of this effect varies with system productivity.