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The context dependence of non-consumptive predator effects
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  • Aaron Wirsing,
  • Michael Heithaus,
  • Joel Brown,
  • Burt Kotler,
  • Oswald Schmitz
Aaron Wirsing
University of Washington
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Michael Heithaus
Florida International University
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Joel Brown
University of Illinois at Chicago
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Burt Kotler
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
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Oswald Schmitz
Yale University
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Abstract

Non-consumptive predator effects (NCEs) are now widely recognized for their capacity to shape ecosystem structure and function. Yet, forecasting the propagation of these predator-induced trait changes through particular communities remains a challenge, in part because we lack a predictive framework that accounts for environmental and species context. Accordingly, focusing on plasticity in prey anti-predator behaviors, we conceptualize the multi-stage process by which predators trigger direct and indirect NCEs, review and then distill potential drivers of NCE contingencies into three key categories (properties of the prey, predator, and setting), and conduct a meta-analysis to quantify the extent to which prey behavioral plasticity in response to predation risk hinges on a well-studied driver – prey energetic state. Our synthesis underscores the myriad factors that can generate NCE contingencies while guiding how research might better anticipate and account for them. We highlight two key knowledge gaps that continue to hinder development of a comprehensive framework for exploring non-consumptive predator-prey interactions. These are insufficient exploration of 1) context-dependent indirect NCEs and 2) the ways in which direct and indirect NCEs are shaped interactively by multiple drivers of context dependence.