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  1. Abstract

    A narrative in ecology is that prey modify traits to reduce predation risk, and the trait modification has costs large enough to cause ensuing demographic, trophic and ecosystem consequences, with implications for conservation, management and agriculture. But ecology has a long history of emphasising that quantifying the importance of an ecological process ultimately requires evidence linking a process to unmanipulated field patterns. We suspected that such process‐linked‐to‐pattern (PLP) studies were poorly represented in the predation risk literature, which conflicts with the confidence often given to the importance of risk effects. We reviewed 29 years of the ecological literature which revealed that there are well over 4000 articles on risk effects. Of those, 349 studies examined risk effects on prey fitness measures or abundance (i.e., non‐consumptive effects) of which only 26 were PLP studies, while 275 studies examined effects on other interacting species (i.e., trait‐mediated indirect effects) of which only 35 were PLP studies. PLP studies were narrowly focused taxonomically and included only three that examined unmanipulated patterns of prey abundance. Before concluding a widespread and influential role of predation‐risk effects, more attention must be given to linking the process of risk effects to unmanipulated patterns observed across diverse ecosystems.

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