Food chain models have dominated empirical studies of trophic interactions in the past decades, and have lead to important insights into the factors that control ecological communities. Despite the importance of food chain models in instigating ecological investigations, many empirical studies still show a strong deviation from the dynamics that food chain models predict. We present a theoretical framework that explains some of the discrepancies by showing that trophic interactions are likely to be strongly influenced by the spatial configuration of consumers and their resources. Differences in the spatial scale at which consumers and their resources function lead to uncoupling of the population dynamics of the interacting species, and may explain overexploitation and depletion of resource populations. We discuss how changed land use, likely the most prominent future stress on natural systems, may affect food web dynamics by interfering with the scale of interaction between consumers and their resource. © 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.