Date of this Version
Am. Nat. 2015. Vol. 185, pp. 354–366
Trophic cascades are indirect positive effects of predators on resources via control of intermediate consumers. Larger-bodied predators appear to induce stronger trophic cascades (a greater rebound of resource density toward carrying capacity), but how this happens is unknown because we lack a clear depiction of how the strength of trophic cascades is determined. Using consumer-resource models, we first show that the strength of a trophic cascade has an upper limit set by the interaction strength between the basal trophic group and its consumer and that this limit is approached as the interaction strength between the consumer and its predator increases. We then express the strength of a trophic cascade explicitly in terms of predator body size and use two independent parameter sets to calculate how the strength of a trophic cascade depends on predator size. Both parameter sets predict a positive effect of predator size on the strength of a trophic cascade, driven mostly by the body size dependence of the interaction strength between the first two trophic levels. Our results support previous empirical findings and suggest that the loss of larger predators will have greater consequences on trophic control and biomass structure in food webs than the loss of smaller predators.