, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 163-174

Processing of allochthonous macrophyte subsidies by sandy beach consumers: estimates of feeding rates and impacts on food resources

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Allochthonous subsidies of organic material can profoundly influence population and community structure; however, the role of consumers in the processing of these inputs is less understood but may be closely linked to community and ecosystem function. Inputs of drift macrophytes subsidize sandy beach communities and food webs in many regions. We estimated feeding rates of dominant sandy beach consumers, the talitrid amphipods (Megalorchestia corniculata, in southern California, USA, and Talitrus saltator, in southern Galicia, Spain), and their impacts on drift macrophyte subsidies in field and laboratory experiments. Feeding rate varied with macrophyte type and, for T. saltator, air temperature. Size-specific feeding rates of talitrid amphipods were greatest on brown macroalgae (Macrocystis, Egregia, Saccorhiza and Fucus). Rates for large individuals of both species ranged from ∼40 mg wet wt individual−112 h−1 on brown macroalgae to negligible feeding by M. corniculata on a vascular plant (surfgrass). Amphipod growth rates were also greatest on Macrocystis and lowest on surfgrass, Phyllospadix. For a Californian beach with substantial inputs of macrophyte wrack (>70 kg wet wt m−1 month−1 in summer), we estimated that the population of talitrid amphipods could process an average of 55% of the palatable Macrocystis input. Our results indicate that talitrid amphipod populations can have a significant impact on drift macrophyte processing and fate and that the quantity and composition of drift macrophytes could, in turn, limit populations of beach consumers.

Communicated by U. Sommer.