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Journal of Tropical Ecology




Cambridge University Press

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Determining the ubiquity of top-down control effects of predators on their prey and ecosystem processes is important for understanding community and ecosystem-level consequences that may result from predator loss. We conducted experiments at two spatial scales to investigate the effects of terrestrial frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui) on aerial and litter invertebrates, plant growth and herbivory, and litter decomposition. At both scales, frogs reduced aerial invertebrates and leaf herbivory, but had no effect on litter invertebrates. At the smaller scale, frogs increased foliage production rates, measured as the number of new leaves and new leaf area produced, by 80% and decomposition rates by 20%. The influence of E. coqui on increasing primary productivity and decomposition rates at the smaller scale appeared to be a result of elimination and excretion rather than of controlling prey. While the results provide evidence for frogs controlling herbivorous prey at both scales, species effects on ecosystem processes were only detectable at the smaller scale. The results highlight the difficulties in conducting experiments at large spatial scales. The findings from this study imply that the loss of amphibians and other species of higher trophic levels may affect nutrient cycling rates in tropical forests.


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