Temporal patterns in macrograzer effects on epilithic algae and meiofauna: a comparative approach to test for single species and whole grazer community effects
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Within the shallow littoral zones of lakes, periphyton is an essential component, representing an important source of primary production and a food resource for herbivores. Periphytic communities are abundantly inhabited by meiofaunal organisms, which are mostly dominated by nematodes. During the last 3 decades, consumer–resource interactions between herbivore consumers and periphytic components (mainly algae) have been intensively studied. Although whole grazer community and single species effects on periphyton are known from field and laboratory experiments, the importance of single, dominant grazer taxa in direct comparison to whole community impacts is unknown. To investigate the continuity of grazing effects of a single, dominant macrograzer (Theodoxus fluviatilis, Gastropoda, Prosobranchia) on epilithic meiofauna and algae with respect to the whole grazer community, a temporally structured field experiment was carried out in Lake Erken (Sweden). Grazer impacts on periphytic algae and meiofauna were tested by controlling macrograzer access to littoral periphyton communities for 8 weeks in an exclosure/enclosure experimental design. Overall, the results showed macrograzer presence to have temporally constant, strongly negative effects on algal biomass as well as meiofaunal abundance and community composition. Moreover, T. fluviatilis alone accounted for up to 80% of the grazing effects, indicative of their ability to regulate periphytic communities in lakes. The present study yields new insights into the effects of a single grazer species and stressed temporal patterns of consumer–resource interactions in freshwater lakes.
KeywordsGrazing Meiofauna Periphyton Snails Temporal dynamics Theodoxus fluviatilis
We thank Kurt Pettersson from the Erken laboratory for support during our field study. We are indebted to Helmut Hillebrand for help with field work and sampling, and to Christa and Karl Hillebrand for the construction of the cages. We thank Wendy Ran for editing the English. Two anonymous reviewers gave helpful comments that improved the manuscript considerably.
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