Quantifying fear effects on prey demography in nature

Author
Peers, M. J. L.
Majchrzak, Y. N.
Neilson, E.
Lamb, C. T.
Hamalainen, A.
Haines, Jessica
Garland, L.
Doran-Myers, D.
Broadly, K.
Boonstra, R.
Faculty Advisor
Date
2018
Keywords
consumptive effect , fear effects , landscape of fear , non-consumptive effects , predation risk , predator cue
Abstract (summary)
In recent years, it has been argued that the effect of predator fear exacts a greater demographic toll on prey populations than the direct killing of prey. However, efforts to quantify the effects of fear have primarily relied on experiments that replace predators with predator cues. Interpretation of these experiments must consider two important caveats: (1) the magnitude of experimenter-induced predator cues may not be realistically comparable to those of the prey’s natural sensory environment, and (2) given functional predators are removed from the treatments, the fear effect is measured in the absence of any consumptive effects, a situation which never occurs in nature. We contend that demographic consequences of fear in natural populations may have been overestimated because the intensity of predator cues applied by experimenters in the majority of studies has been unnaturally high, in some instances rarely occurring in nature without consumption. Furthermore, the removal of consumption from the treatments creates the potential situation that individual prey in poor condition (those most likely to contribute strongly to the observed fear effects via starvation or reduced reproductive output) may have been consumed by predators in nature prior to the expression of fear effects, thus confounding consumptive and fear effects. Here, we describe an alternative treatment design that does not utilize predator cues, and in so doing, better quantifies the demographic effect of fear on wild populations. This treatment substitutes the traditional cue experiment where consumptive effects are eliminated and fear is simulated with a design where fear is removed and consumptive effects are simulated through the experimental removal of prey. Comparison to a natural population would give a more robust estimate of the effect of fear in the presence of consumption on the demographic variable of interest. This approach represents a critical advance in quantifying the mechanistic pathways through which predation structures ecological communities. Discussing the merits of both treatments will motivate researchers to go beyond simply describing the existence of fear effects and focus on testing their true magnitude in wild populations and natural communities.
Publication Information
Peers, M. J. L., Majchrzak, Y. N., Neilson, E., Lamb, C. T., Hamalainen, A., Haines, J. A., Garland, L., Doran-Myers, D., Broadly, K., Boonstra, R., Boutin, S. (2018). Quantifying fear effects on prey demography in nature. Ecology, 99(8),1716-1723. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2381
DOI
Notes
Item Type
Article
Language
English
Rights
All Rights Reserved