Fagan, W.F. 1997. Omnivory as a stabilizing feature of natural communities. American Naturalist 150: 554-568.

Omnivory—defined broadly as feeding on more than one trophic level—occupies a prominent position in discussions of food web architecture and dynamics, due in large part to an enduring conflict regarding omnivory’s role in community dynamics. According to classical results from mathematical food web theory, omnivory destabilizes ecological communities, whereas more recent conceptual syntheses suggest that omnivory should be a strongly stabilizing factor in food webs. Working with an arthropod assemblage at Mount Saint Helens, I experimentally addressed this controversy using a two-way factorial design that crossed a manipulation of the degree of omnivory with another ‘‘disturbance’’ manipulation that targeted a specific component of the assemblage. In this statistical design, significant interaction effects (i.e., how the community impacts of the disturbance varied with the degree of omnivory) identified key stabilizing or destabilizing influences of omnivory. Overall, my experimental results indicated that increasing the degree of omnivory stabilized community dynamics, in keeping with recent conceptual syntheses.