, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 247–256

Herbivorous caddisflies, macroalgae, and epilithic microalgae: dynamic interactions in a stream grazing system

  • Jack W. Feminella
  • Vincent H. Resh
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00325263

Cite this article as:
Feminella, J.W. & Resh, V.H. Oecologia (1991) 87: 247. doi:10.1007/BF00325263


1. During the low-flow period (April–October) in sunlit pools of Big Sulphur Creek (northern coastal California), the attached algal community predictably changes from an assemblage dominated by lush, upright Cladophora glomerata filaments in spring and early summer to one dominated by epilithic diatoms and blue-green algae (together=microalgae) in late summer through early autumn. Previous studies in this stream indicated that grazing by the caddisflies Helicopsyche borealis and Gumaga nigricula maintain low algal biomass during the latter part of this period. We used a combination of in situ exclusion/enclosure experiments to examine (1) the separate and combined effects of these grazers on Cladophora and microalgal assemblages, and (2) food preferences, growth, and microdistribution patterns of grazers when offered these different algal foods. 2. Grazers exerted strong but divergent effects on algal assemblages. Selective grazing on Cladophora by G. nigricula greatly accelerated the transition from upright Cladophora to epilithic microalgae, whereas selective grazing on microalgae by H. borealis dramatically reduced biomass of these forms. Grazers were largely ineffective at reducing the non-preferred algal food source (i.e. Cladophora by H. borealis, microalgae by G. nigricula). In the case of each grazer, growth was highest on the preferred algal food. Together, the activity of these grazers produced a low-biomass assemblage dominated by microalgal cells. 3. Removal of the Cladophora overstory by G. nigricula resulted in a three-fold increase in the abundance of epilithic microalgae, the preferred food of H. borealis. Elimination of Cladophora by G. nigricula can increase food availability for H. borealis and, in so doing, can indirectly facilitate the growth of this grazer during food-limited conditions. However, microdistribution of G. nigricula shifts from high overlap with H. borealis in spring and early summer when Cladophora is abundant to low overlap in late summer after Cladophora has been eliminated. This may indicate intense competition between these species for limited epilithic algae, and a concomitant movement by G. nigricula to areas in the stream where food resources are more available.

Key words

Algae Aquatic insect Biotic interactions Periphyton Grazing 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack W. Feminella
    • 1
  • Vincent H. Resh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomological SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife/Ecology CenterUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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