Effects of urbanization on direct and indirect interactions in a tri-trophic system

Turrini, Tabea; Sanders, Dirk; Knop, Eva (2016). Effects of urbanization on direct and indirect interactions in a tri-trophic system. Ecological Applications, 26(3), pp. 664-675. Ecological Society of America 10.1890/14-1787

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While effects of urbanization on species assemblages are receiving increasing attention, effects on ecological interactions remain largely unexplored. We investigated how urbanization influences the strength of direct and indirect trophic interactions in a tritrophic system. In a field experiment including five cities and nearby farmed areas, we used potted Vicia faba plants and manipulated the presence of Megoura viciae aphids and that of naturally occurring aphid predators. When predators could access aphids, they reduced their abundance less in the urban than in the agricultural ecosystem. Compared to aphid abundance on plants without predator access, abundance on plants with predator access was 2.58 times lower in urban and 5.27 times lower in agricultural areas. This indicates that urbanization limited top-down control of aphids by predators. In both ecosystems, plant biomass was negatively affected by herbivores and positively affected by predators, but the positive indirect predator effect was weaker in cities. Compared to aphid-infested plants without predator access, plants with predator access were 1.89 times heavier in urban and 2.12 times heavier in agricultural areas. Surprisingly, differences between ecosystems regarding the indirect predator effect on plants were not explained by the differentially strong herbivore suppression. Instead, the urban environment limited plant biomass per se, thereby mitigating the scope of a positive predator effect. Our results show that urbanization can influence direct and indirect trophic interactions through effects on biotic top-down forces and on plant growth. In order to understand how urbanization affects biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, it is fundamental to not only consider species assemblages, but also species interactions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Turrini, Tabea; Sanders, Dirk and Knop, Eva


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Ecological Society of America




Alexander Strauss

Date Deposited:

17 Nov 2016 11:10

Last Modified:

11 Oct 2017 16:45

Publisher DOI:






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