Consumers as Regulators of Ecosystems: An Alternative to Energetics

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Little is known about consumers as regulators of ecosystem functioning. The evidence reviewed here suggests that consumers are beneficial to ecosystems as regulators rather than energy movers. In order to predict ecosystem behavior, it is essential to know how consumers cause departures from the linear transfers of energy depicted in most models. The complexity of population ecologies in nature greatly confounds generalizations based on circumstantial evidence, hence experimentation seems essential. More boldness and unconventionality is needed in experimentation. For example, diversity can be manipulated to extremes, important categories of consumers can be removed, entire fauna can be temporarily held back. Such experimentation has technical and time-span difficulties and the expense per experiment may be high, but the knowledge gained per dollar can be much more than the gains resulting from the traditional search for correlations in the accretions of field observations.


Author Institution: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California



The Ohio Journal of Science. v74, n6 (November, 1974), 359-370