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Plant diversity alters the representation of motifs in food webs


Changes in the diversity of plant communities may undermine the economically and environmentally important consumer species they support. The structure of trophic interactions determines the sensitivity of food webs to perturbations, but rigorous assessments of plant diversity effects on network topology are lacking. Here, we use highly resolved networks from a grassland biodiversity experiment to test how plant diversity affects the prevalence of different food web motifs, the smaller recurrent sub-networks that form the building blocks of complex networks. We find that the representation of tri-trophic chain, apparent competition and exploitative competition motifs increases with plant species richness, while the representation of omnivory motifs decreases. Moreover, plant species richness is associated with altered patterns of local interactions among arthropod consumers in which plants are not directly involved. These findings reveal novel structuring forces that plant diversity exerts on food webs with potential implications for the persistence and functioning of multitrophic communities.


Giling, D. P., Ebeling, A., Eisenhauer, N., Meyer, S. T., Roscher, C., Rzanny, M. et al. (2019). Plant diversity alters the representation of motifs in food webs. Nature communications, 10(1), 1226. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08856-0

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