Warming-induced changes in predation, extinction and invasion in an ectotherm food web.
Climate change will alter the forces of predation and competition in temperate ectotherm food webs. This may increase local extinction rates, change the fate of invasions and impede species reintroductions into communities. Invasion success could be modulated by traits (e.g., defenses) and adaptations to climate. We studied how different temperatures affect the time until extinction of species, using bitrophic and tritrophic planktonic food webs to evaluate the relative importance of predatory overexploitation and competitive exclusion, at 15 and 25°C. In addition, we tested how inclusion of a subtropical as opposed to a temperate strain in this model food web affects times until extinction. Further, we studied the invasion success of the temperate rotifer Brachionus calyciflorus into the planktonic food web at 15 and 25°C on five consecutive introduction dates, during which the relative forces of predation and competition differed. A higher temperature dramatically shortened times until extinction of all herbivore species due to carnivorous overexploitation in tritrophic systems. Surprisingly, warming did not increase rates of competitive exclusion among the tested herbivore species in bitrophic communities. Including a subtropical herbivore strain reduced top-down control by the carnivore at high temperature. Invasion attempts of temperate B. calyciflorus into the food web always succeeded at 15°C, but consistently failed at 25°C due to voracious overexploitation by the carnivore. Pre-induction of defenses (spines) in B. calyciflorus before the invasion attempt did not change its invasion success at the high temperature. We conclude that high temperatures may promote local extinctions in temperate ectotherms and reduce their chances of successful recovery.