A.M. de Roos
- Culling experiments demonstrate size-class specific biomass increases with mortality
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Volume | Issue number
- 106 | 8
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Size-selective mortality inevitably leads to a decrease in population density and exerts a direct negative effect on targeted size classes. But density and population size structure are also shaped by food-dependent processes, such as individual growth, maturation, and reproduction. Mortality relaxes competition and thereby alters the dynamic interplay among these processes. As shown by the recently developed size-structured theory, which can account for food-dependent individual performance, this altered interplay can lead to overcompensatory responses in size class-specific biomass, with increasing mortality. We experimentally tested this theory by subjecting laboratory fish populations to a range of size-selective mortality rates. Overall, the results were in agreement with theoretical predictions. Biomass of the juvenile size class increased above control levels at intermediate adult mortality rates and thereafter declined at high mortality rates. Juvenile biomass also increased when juveniles themselves were subjected to intermediate mortality rates. Biomass in other size classes decreased with mortality. Such biomass overcompensation can have wide-ranging implications for communities and food webs, including a high sensitivity of top predators to irreversible catastrophic collapses, the establishment of alternative stable community states, and the promotion of coexistence and biodiversity.
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