U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Ecology Letters (2011) pp. 1-12; doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01696.x


Predator–prey interactions are a primary structuring force vital to the resilience of marine communities and sustainability of the world's oceans. Human influences on marine ecosystems mediate changes in species interactions. This generality is evinced by the cascading effects of overharvesting top predators on the structure and function of marine ecosystems. It follows that ecological forecasting, ecosystem management, and marine spatial planning require a better understanding of food web relationships. Characterising and scaling predator– prey interactions for use in tactical and strategic tools (i.e. multi-species management and ecosystem models) are paramount in this effort. Here, we explore what issues are involved and must be considered to advance the use of predator–prey theory in the context of marine fisheries science. We address pertinent contemporary ecological issues including the approaches and complexities of evaluating predator responses in marine systems; the 'scaling up' of predator–prey interactions to the population, community, and ecosystem level; the role of predator–prey theory in contemporary fisheries and ecosystem modelling approaches; and directions for the future. Our intent is to point out needed research directions that will improve our understanding of predator–prey interactions in the context of the sustainable marine fisheries and ecosystem management.