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Revisiting Paine’s 1966 sea star removal experiment, the most-cited empirical article in the American Naturalist

American Naturalist

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https://doi.org/10.1086/688045

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Abstract

“Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” (Paine 1966) is the most-cited empirical article published in the American Naturalist. In short, Paine removed predatory sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) from the rocky intertidal and watched the key prey species, mussels (Mytilus californianus), crowd out seven subordinate primary space-holding species. However, because these mussels are a foundational species, they provide three-dimensional habitat for over 300 associated species inhabiting the mussel beds; thus, removing sea stars significantly increases community-wide diversity. In any case, most ecologists cite Paine (1966) to support a statement that predators increase diversity by interfering with competition. Although detractors remained skeptical of top-down effects and keystone concepts, the paradigm that predation increases diversity spread. By 1991, “Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” was considered a classic ecological paper, and after 50 years it continues to influence ecological theory and conservation biology.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Revisiting Paine’s 1966 sea star removal experiment, the most-cited empirical article in the American Naturalist
Series title:
American Naturalist
DOI:
10.1086/688045
Volume:
188
Issue:
4
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Society of Naturalists
Publisher location:
Salem, MA
Contributing office(s):
Western Ecological Research Center
Description:
14 p.
First page:
365
Last page:
378
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N