Royal Society Publishing

Unpalatable prey resolves the paradox of enrichment

Motomi Genkai-Kato, Norio Yamamura

Abstract

Enrichment is an increasingly serious trend in natural ecosystems. A theoretical model of a predator–prey system with a natural assumption of satiation in predation predicts that enrichment causes the populations to fluctuate to stochastic extinction. However, this ‘paradox of enrichment’ does not always occur in experimental and natural communities. Here we present a theoretical model that describes a novel mechanism for resolving the paradox in the case of a predator with optimal selective feeding. Specifically, a less profitable but edible (thus ‘unpalatable’) prey species sharply reduces the amplitude of population oscillations and firmly prevents the minimum abundances of species from falling below certain values. The presence of such an unpalatable prey thus guarantees the robustness of the system against enrichment.

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