, Volume 167, Issue 3, pp 821-834
Date: 07 Jun 2011

Increasing donor ecosystem productivity decreases terrestrial consumer reliance on a stream resource subsidy

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Abstract

Because nutrient enrichment can increase ecosystem productivity, it may enhance resource flows to adjacent ecosystems as organisms cross ecosystem boundaries and subsidize predators in recipient ecosystems. Here, we quantified the biomass and abundance of aquatic emergence and terrestrial spiders in a reference and treatment stream that had been continuously enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus for 5 years. Because we previously showed that enrichment increased secondary production of stream consumers, we predicted that aquatic emergence flux would be higher in the treatment stream, subsequently increasing the biomass and abundance of terrestrial spiders. Those increases were predicted to be greatest for spiders specializing on aquatic emergence subsidies (e.g., Tetragnathidae). By adding a 15N stable isotope tracer to both streams, we also quantified nitrogen flow from the stream into the riparian community. Emergence biomass, but not abundance, was higher in the treatment stream. The average body size of emerging adult insects and the relative dominance of Trichoptera adults were also greater in the treatment stream. However, spider biomass did not differ between streams. Spiders also exhibited substantially lower reliance on aquatic emergence nitrogen in the treatment stream. This reduced reliance likely resulted from shifts in the body size distributions and community composition of insect emergence that may have altered predator consumption efficiency in the treatment stream. Despite nutrient enrichment approximately doubling stream productivity and associated cross-ecosystem resource flows, the response of terrestrial predators depended more on the resource subsidy’s characteristics that affected the predator’s ability to capitalize on such increases.

Communicated by Leon Barmuta.
J.M. Davis conceived the experiment, designed and conducted data collection, and analyzed the data. A.D. Rosemond contributed to experimental design. G.E. Small developed the dynamic mixing model. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.