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Variation in active and passive resource inputs to experimental pools: mechanisms and possible consequences for food webs

October 18, 2010

1. Cross-ecosystem movements of resources, including detritus, nutrients and living prey, can strongly influence food web dynamics in recipient habitats. Variation in resource inputs is thought to be driven by factors external to the recipient habitat (e.g. donor habitat productivity and boundary conditions). However, inputs of or by ‘active’ living resources may be strongly influenced by recipient habitat quality when organisms exhibit behavioural habitat selection when crossing ecosystem boundaries.

2. To examine whether behavioural responses to recipient habitat quality alter the relative inputs of ‘active’ living and ‘passive’ detrital resources to recipient food webs, we manipulated the presence of caged predatory fish and measured biomass, energy and organic content of inputs to outdoor experimental pools of adult aquatic insects, frog eggs, terrestrial plant matter and terrestrial arthropods.

3. Caged fish reduced the biomass, energy and organic matter donated to pools by tree frog eggs by ∼70%, but did not alter insect colonisation or passive allochthonous inputs of terrestrial arthropods and plant material. Terrestrial plant matter and adult aquatic insects provided the most energy and organic matter inputs to the pools (40–50%), while terrestrial arthropods provided the least (7%). Inputs of frog egg were relatively small but varied considerably among pools and over time (3%, range = 0–20%). Absolute and proportional amounts varied by input type.

4. Aquatic predators can strongly affect the magnitude of active, but not passive, inputs and that the effect of recipient habitat quality on active inputs is variable. Furthermore, some active inputs (i.e. aquatic insect colonists) can provide similar amounts of energy and organic matter as passive inputs of terrestrial plant matter, which are well known to be important. Because inputs differ in quality and the trophic level they subsidise, proportional changes in input type could have strong effects on recipient food webs.

5. Cross-ecosystem resource inputs have previously been characterised as donor-controlled. However, control by the recipient food web could lead to greater feedback between resource flow and consumer dynamics than has been appreciated so far.

Publication Year 2010
Title Variation in active and passive resource inputs to experimental pools: mechanisms and possible consequences for food webs
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2010.02516.x
Authors Johanna M. Kraus, Leanna T. Pletcher, James R. Vonesh
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Freshwater Biology
Index ID 70118778
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse