Terrestrial food web complexity in Amazonian forests decays with habitat loss

Pires, Mathias M., Benchimol, Maíra, Cruz, Livia R. and Peres, Carlos A. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1588-8765 (2023) Terrestrial food web complexity in Amazonian forests decays with habitat loss. Current Biology, 33 (2). 389-396.e3. ISSN 0960-9822

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The conversion of natural ecosystems into human-modified landscapes (HMLs) is the main driver of biodiversity loss in terrestrial ecosystems.1,2,3 Even when species persist within habitat remnants, populations may become so small that ecological interactions are functionally lost, disrupting local interaction networks.4,5 To uncover the consequences of land use changes toward ecosystem functioning, we need to understand how changes in species richness and abundance in HMLs6,7,8 rearrange ecological networks. We used data from forest vertebrate surveys and combined modeling and network analysis to investigate how the structure of predator-prey networks was affected by habitat insularization induced by a hydroelectric reservoir in the Brazilian Amazonia.9 We found that network complexity, measured by interaction diversity, decayed non-linearly with decreasingly smaller forest area. Although on large forest islands (>100 ha) prey species were linked to 3–4 potential predators, they were linked to one or had no remaining predator on small islands. Using extinction simulations, we show that the variation in network structure cannot be explained by abundance-related extinction risk or prey availability. Our findings show that habitat loss may result in an abrupt disruption of terrestrial predator-prey networks, generating low-complexity ecosystems that may not retain functionality. Release from predation on some small islands may produce cascading effects over plants that accelerate forest degradation, whereas predator spillover on others may result in overexploited prey populations. Our analyses highlight that in addition to maintaining diversity, protecting large continuous forests is required for the persistence of interaction networks and related ecosystem functions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Author Acknowledgments: We are grateful to all our field assistants—Evanir, Evandro, Joelson, Naldo, Zé, Davi, Nina, Márcio, and Aline. We thank the Reserva Biológica do Uatumã for logistical and financial support and W. Endo and CENAP for assisting with identification of Leopardus species. We thank Fernanda Abra for allowing us to use the species illustrations in Figure 1. This study was funded by a WCS Research Fellowship, the Rufford Small Grant Foundation, the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation, and Idea Wild. M.M.P. is funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, grant #19/25478-7). L.R.C. was funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, grant #19/16025-9). M.B. was funded by a Brazilian Ministry of Education PhD studentship (CAPES, 080410/0). Recent work has been supported by a National Geographic Society grant (NGS-93497C-22) awarded to C.A.P.
Uncontrolled Keywords: defaunation,fragmentation,habitat loss,interaction network,network structure,agricultural and biological sciences(all),biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology(all),neuroscience(all),sdg 15 - life on land ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1100
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Environmental Biology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2023 12:33
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2023 14:53
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/90368
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.11.066


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