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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

High Redundancy as well as Complementary Prey Choice Characterize Generalist Predator Food Webs in Agroecosystems

Roubinet, Eve; Jonsson, Tomas; Malsher, Gerard; Staudacher, Karin; Traugott, Michael; Ekbom, Barbara; Jonsson, Mattias


Food web structure influences ecosystem functioning and the strength and stability of associated ecosystem services. With their broad diet, generalist predators represent key nodes in the structure of many food webs and they contribute substantially to ecosystem services such as biological pest control. However, until recently it has been difficult to empirically assess food web structure with generalist predators. We utilized DNA-based molecular gut-content analyses to assess the prey use of a set of generalist invertebrate predator species common in temperate agricultural fields. We investigated the degree of specialization of predator-prey food webs at two key stages of the cropping season and analysed the link temperature of different trophic links, to identify non-random predation. We found a low level of specialization in our food webs, and identified warm and cool links which may result from active prey choice or avoidance. We also found a within-season variation in interaction strength between predators and aphid pests which differed among predator species. Our results show a high time-specific functional redundancy of the predator community, but also suggest temporally complementary prey choice due to within-season succession of some predator species.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2018, Volume: 8, article number: 8054