Far-ranging generalist top predators enhance the stability of meta-foodwebs
Andreas Brechtel, Thilo Gross and Barbara Drossel
Sci Rep 9, 12268, 2019
Identifying stabilizing factors in foodwebs is a long standing challenge with wide implications for community ecology and conservation. Here, we investigate the stability of spatially resolved meta-foodwebs with far-ranging super-predators for whom the whole meta-foodwebs appears to be a single habitat. By using a combination of generalised modeling with a master stability function approach, we are able to efficiently explore the asymptotic stability of large classes of realistic many-patch meta-foodwebs. We show that meta-foodwebs with far-ranging top predators are more stable than those with localized top predators. Moreover, adding far-ranging generalist top predators to a system can have a net stabilizing effect, despite increasing the food web size. These results highlight the importance of top predator conservation.
Figure 1: Proportion of stable webs for a 10-patch Holling type 2 system with \(S = 10\) local species and a global predator for the different numbers of prey species of the global predator. The dashed line represents the proportion of stable webs of the system when the global species is removed. The system’s stability increases when the global species has more prey species. For more than 4 prey species the system with the global predator exceeds the stability of the system without it.