Inferring species interactions from ecological survey data: a mechanistic approach to predict quantitative food webs of seed feeding by carabid beetles

Pocock, Michael J.O. ORCID:; Schmucki, Reto ORCID:; Bohan, David A.. 2021 Inferring species interactions from ecological survey data: a mechanistic approach to predict quantitative food webs of seed feeding by carabid beetles. Ecology and Evolution, 11 (18). 12858-12871.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N531199JA.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


1. Ecological networks are valuable for ecosystem analysis but their use is often limited by a lack of data because many types of ecological interaction, for example, predation, are short-lived and difficult to observe or detect. While there are different methods for inferring the presence of interactions, they have rarely been used to predict the interaction strengths that are required to construct weighted, or quantitative, ecological networks. 2. Here, we develop a trait-based approach suitable for inferring weighted networks, that is, with varying interaction strengths. We developed the method for seed-feeding carabid ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) although the principles can be applied to other species and types of interaction. 3. Using existing literature data from experimental seed-feeding trials, we predicted a per-individual interaction cost index based on carabid and seed size. This was scaled up to the population level to create inferred weighted networks using the abundance of carabids and seeds from empirical samples and energetic intake rates of carabids from the literature. From these weighted networks, we also derived a novel measure of expected predation pressure per seed type per network. 4. This method was applied to existing ecological survey data from 255 arable fields with carabid data from pitfall traps and plant seeds from seed rain traps. Analysis of these inferred networks led to testable hypotheses about how network structure and predation pressure varied among fields. 5. Inferred networks are valuable because (a) they provide null models for the structuring of food webs to test against empirical species interaction data, for example, DNA analysis of carabid gut regurgitates and (b) they allow weighted networks to be constructed whenever we can estimate interactions between species and have ecological census data available. This permits ecological network analysis even at times and in places when interactions were not directly assessed.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: biocontrol, Carabidae, ecological network, predation, seed rain, weighted interaction
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 07 Oct 2021 11:02 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...