skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "DiFiore, Bartholomew P."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Introduction

    Changes in temperature can fundamentally transform how species interact, causing wholesale shifts in ecosystem dynamics and stability. Yet we still have a limited understanding of how temperature-dependence in physiology drives temperature-dependence in species-interactions. For predator-prey interactions, theory predicts that increases in temperature drive increases in metabolism and that animals respond to this increased energy expenditure by ramping up their food consumption to meet their metabolic demand. However, if consumption does not increase as rapidly with temperature as metabolism, increases in temperature can ultimately cause a reduction in consumer fitness and biomass via starvation.


    Here we test the hypothesis that increases in temperature cause more rapid increases in metabolism than increases in consumption using the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) as a model system. We acclimated individual lobsters to temperatures they experience sacross their biogeographic range (11, 16, 21, or 26°C), then measured whether lobster consumption rates are able to meet the increased metabolic demands of rising temperatures.

    Results and discussion

    We show positive effects of temperature on metabolism and predation, but in contrast to our hypothesis, rising temperature caused lobster consumption rates to increase at a faster rate than increases in metabolic demand, suggesting that for the mid-range of temperatures, lobsters are capable of ramping up consumption rates to increase their caloric demand. However, at the extreme ends of the simulated temperatures, lobster biology broke down. At the coldest temperature, lobsters had almost no metabolic activity and at the highest temperature, 33% of lobsters died. Our results suggest that temperature plays a key role in driving the geographic range of spiny lobsters and that spatial and temporal shifts in temperature can play a critical role in driving the strength of species interactions for a key predator in temperate reef ecosystems.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Climate change is increasing the frequency, severity, and extent of wildfires and drought in many parts of the world, with numerous repercussions for the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of streams. However, information on how these perturbations affect top predators and their impacts on lower trophic levels in streams is limited.

    The top aquatic predator in southern California streams is nativeOncorhynchus mykiss, the endangered southern California steelhead trout (trout). To examine relationships among the distribution of trout, environmental factors, and stream invertebrate resources and assemblages, we sampled pools in 25 stream reaches that differed in the presence (nine reaches) or absence (16 reaches) of trout over 12 years, including eight reaches where trout were extirpated during the study period by drought or post‐fire flood disturbances.

    Trout were present in deep pools with high water and habitat quality. Invertebrate communities in trout pools were dominated by a variety of medium‐sized collector–gatherer and shredder invertebrate taxa with non‐seasonal life cycles, whereas tadpoles and large, predatory invertebrates (Odonata, Coleoptera, Hemiptera [OCH]), often with atmospheric breather traits, were more abundant in troutless than trout pools.

    Structural equation modelling of the algal‐based food web indicated a trophic cascade from trout to predatory invertebrates to collector–gatherer taxa and weaker direct negative trout effects on grazers; however, both grazers and collector–gatherers also were positively related to macroalgal biomass. Structural equation modelling also suggested that bottom‐up interactions and abiotic factors drove the detritus‐based food web, with shredder abundance being positively related to leaf litter (coarse particulate organic matter) levels, which, in turn, were positively related to canopy cover and negatively related to flow. These results emphasise the context dependency of trout effects on prey communities and of the relative importance of top‐down versus bottom‐up interactions on food webs, contingent on environmental conditions (flow, light, nutrients, disturbances) and the abundances and traits of component taxa.

    Invertebrate assemblage structure changed from a trout to a troutless configuration within a year or two after trout were lost owing to post‐fire scouring flows or drought. Increases in OCH abundance after trout were lost were much more variable after drought than after fire. The reappearance of trout in one stream resulted in quick, severe reductions in OCH abundance.

    These results indicate that climate‐change induced disturbances can result in the extirpation of a top predator, with cascading repercussions for stream communities and food webs. This study also emphasises the importance of preserving or restoring refuge habitats, such as deep, shaded, perennial, cool stream pools with high habitat and water quality, to prevent the extirpation of sensitive species and preserve native biodiversity during a time of climate change.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    How strongly predators and prey interact is both notoriously context dependent and difficult to measure. Yet across taxa, interaction strength is strongly related to predator size, prey size and prey density, suggesting that general cross‐taxonomic relationships could be used to predict how strongly individual species interact.

    Here, we ask how accurately do general size‐scaling relationships predict variation in interaction strength between specific species that vary in size and density across space and time?

    To address this question, we quantified the size and density dependence of the functional response of the California spiny lobsterPanulirus interruptus, foraging on a key ecosystem engineer, the purple sea urchinStrongylocentrotus purpuratus, in experimental mesocosms. Based on these results, we then estimated variation in lobster–urchin interaction strength across five sites and 9 years of observational data. Finally, we compared our experimental estimates to predictions based on general size‐scaling relationships from the literature.

    Our results reveal that predator and prey body size has the greatest effect on interaction strength when prey abundance is high. Due to consistently high urchin densities in the field, our simulations suggest that body size—relative to density—accounted for up to 87% of the spatio‐temporal variation in interaction strength. However, general size‐scaling relationships failed to predict the magnitude of interactions between lobster and urchin; even the best prediction from the literature was, on average, an order of magnitude (+18.7×) different than our experimental predictions.

    Harvest and climate change are driving reductions in the average body size of many marine species. Anticipating how reductions in body size will alter species interactions is critical to managing marine systems in an ecosystem context. Our results highlight the extent to which differences in size‐frequency distributions can drive dramatic variation in the strength of interactions across narrow spatial and temporal scales. Furthermore, our work suggests that species‐specific estimates for the scaling of interaction strength with body size, rather than general size‐scaling relationships, are necessary to quantitatively predict how reductions in body size will alter interaction strengths.

    more » « less