Adaptive movement and food-chain dynamics: towards food-web theory without birth–death processes

Michio Kondoh, Akihiko Mougi, Atushi Ushimaru, Kensuke Nakata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Population density can be affected by its prey [resource] and predator [consumer] abundances through two different mechanisms: the alternation of birth [or somatic growth] or death rate and inter-habitat movement. While the food-web theory has traditionally been built on the former mechanism, the latter mechanism has formed the basis of a successful theory explaining the spatial distribution of organisms in the context of behavioral and evolutionary ecology. Yet, few studies have compared these two mechanisms, leaving the question of how similar (or different) predictions derived from birth–death-based and movement-based food-web theories unanswered. Here, theoretical models of the tri-trophic (resource–consumer-top predator) food chain were used to compare food-web patterns arising from these two mechanisms. Specifically, we evaluated the response of the food-chain structure to inter-patch differences in productivity for movement-based models and birth–death-based models. Model analysis reveals that adaptive movements give rise to positively correlated responses of all trophic levels to increased productivity; however, this pattern was not observed in the corresponding birth–death-based model. The movement-based model predicts that the food chain response to productivity is determined by the sensitivity of animal movement to the environmental conditions. More specifically, increasing sensitivity of a consumer or top predator leads to smaller inter-patch variance of the resource or consumer density, while increasing inter-patch variance in the consumer or resource density. In conclusion, adaptive movement provides an alternative mechanism correlating the food-web structure to environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalTheoretical Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Food-web theory
  • Game theory
  • Ideal free distribution
  • Mathematical model
  • Productivity
  • Two-patch model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modelling


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