Nonadditive effects of consumption in an intertidal macroinvertebrate community are independent of food availability but driven by complementarity effects

Emily M. van Egmond*, Peter M. van Bodegom, Jurgen R. van Hal, Richard S.P. van Logtestijn, Matty P. Berg, Rien Aerts

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Suboptimal environmental conditions are ubiquitous in nature and commonly drive the outcome of biological interactions in community processes. Despite the importance of biological interactions for community processes, knowledge on how species interactions are affected by a limiting resource, for example, low food availability, remains limited. Here, we tested whether variation in food supply causes nonadditive consumption patterns, using the macroinvertebrate community of intertidal sandy beaches as a model system. We quantified isotopically labeled diatom consumption by three macroinvertebrate species (Bathyporeia pilosa, Haustorius arenarius, and Scolelepis squamata) kept in mesocosms in either monoculture or a three-species community at a range of diatom densities. Our results show that B. pilosa was the most successful competitor in terms of consumption at both high and low diatom density, while H. arenarius and especially S. squamata consumed less in a community than in their respective monocultures. Nonadditive effects on consumption in this macroinvertebrate community were present and larger than mere additive effects, and similar across diatom densities. The underlying species interactions, however, did change with diatom density. Complementarity effects related to niche-partitioning were the main driver of the net diversity effect on consumption, with a slightly increasing contribution of selection effects related to competition with decreasing diatom density. For the first time, we showed that nonadditive effects of consumption are independent of food availability in a macroinvertebrate community. This suggests that, in communities with functionally different, and thus complementary, species, nonadditive effects can arise even when food availability is low. Hence, at a range of environmental conditions, species interactions hold important potential to alter ecosystem functioning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3086-3097
    Number of pages12
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number6
    Early online date16 Feb 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • benthos
    • community assembly
    • functional diversity
    • soft-sediment beach
    • trophic interactions


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