RWang_tables_figures_ESM.pdf from Loss of top-down biotic interactions changes the relative benefits for obligate mutualists
2019-02-08T09:16:26Z (GMT) by
The collapse of mutualisms due to anthropogenic changes is contributing to losses of biodiversity. Top predators can regulate biotic interactions between species at lower trophic levels and may contribute to the stability of such mutualisms, but they are particularly likely to be lost after disturbance of communities. We focused on the mutualism between the fig tree Ficus microcarpa and its host-specific pollinator fig wasp and compared the benefits accrued by the mutualists in natural and translocated areas of distribution. Parasitoids of the pollinator were rare or absent outside the natural range of the mutualists, where the relative benefits the mutualists gained from their interaction were changed significantly away from the plant's natural range due to reduced seed production rather than increased numbers of pollinator offspring. Furthermore, in the absence of the negative effects of its parasitoids, we detected an oviposition range expansion by the pollinator, with the use of a wider range of ovules that could otherwise have generated seeds. Loss of top-down control has therefore resulted in a change in the balance of reciprocal benefits that underpins this obligate mutualism, emphasizing the value of maintaining food web complexity in the Anthropocene.