Infectious Agents Trigger Trophic Cascades

TitleInfectious Agents Trigger Trophic Cascades
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBuck JC, Ripple W.J.
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution

Most demonstrated trophic cascades originate with predators, but infectious agents can also cause top-down indirect effects in ecosystems. Here we synthesize the literature on trophic cascades initiated by infectious agents including parasitoids, pathogens, parasitic castrators, macroparasites, and trophically transmitted parasites. Like predators, infectious agents can cause density-mediated and trait-mediated indirect effects through their direct consumptive and nonconsumptive effects respectively. Unlike most predators, however, infectious agents are not fully and immediately lethal to their victims, so their consumptive effects can also trigger trait-mediated indirect effects. We find that the frequency of trophic cascades reported for different consumer types scales with consumer lethality. Furthermore, we emphasize the value of uniting predator–prey and parasite–host theory under a general consumer–resource framework.

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