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Title: A rodent herbivore reduce its predation risk through ecosystem engineering
Author: Zhong, Zhiwei; Li, Guoliang; Sanders, Dirk; Wang, Deli; Holt, Robert D.; Zhang, Zhibin
Abstract: Predator-prey interactions are ubiquitous and powerful forces that structure ecological communities.1, 2, 3 Habitat complexity has been shown to be particularly important in regulating the strength of predator-prey interactions.4, 5, 6 While it is well established that changes in habitat structure can alter the efficacy of predatory and anti-predatory behaviors,7, 8, 9 little is known about the consequences of engineering activity by prey species who modify the external environment to reduce their own predation risk. Using field surveys and manipulative experiments, we evaluated how habitat modification by Brandt’s voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii) influences predation risk from a principal avian predator (shrike; Lanius spp.) in a steppe grassland, located in Inner Mongolia, China. We found that voles actively modify habitat structure by cutting down a large, unpalatable bunchgrass species (Achnatherum splendens) in the presence of shrikes, a behavior that disappeared when these avian predators were excluded experimentally. The damage activities of these voless dramatically decreased the volume of unpalatable grasses, which in turn reduced visitations by shrikes and thus mortality rates. Our study shows that herbivorous prey that act as ecosystem engineers can directly reduce their own predation risk by modifying habitat structure. Given the ubiquity of predation risks faced by consumers, and the likely ability of many consumers to alter the habitat structure in which they live, the interplay between predation risk and ecosystem engineering may be an important but unappreciated mechanism at play in natural communities.
Corresponding author: Zhang, Zhibin
Impact Factor: 10.9
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PubYear: 2022
Volume: 32
Issue: 8
Page: 1869-1874
Journal: Current Biology
The full text link:
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.074