Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 229–240 | Cite as

Temporal patterns in macrograzer effects on epilithic algae and meiofauna: a comparative approach to test for single species and whole grazer community effects

  • Lars PetersEmail author
  • Walter Traunspurger
Research Article


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.


Grazing 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.


  1. Anderson MJ (2001) A new method for non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance. Austral Ecol 26:32–46Google Scholar
  2. Anderson MJ, Gorley RN, Clarke KR (2008) PERMANOVA + for PRIMER: guide to software and statistical methods. PRIMER-E Ltd., PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  3. Balvanera P, Pfisterer AB, Buchmann N, He JS, Nakashizuka T, Raffaelli D, Schmid B (2006) Quantifying the evidence for biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning and services. Ecol Lett 9:1146–1156PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beier S, Bolley M, Traunspurger W (2004) Predator–prey interactions between Dugesia gonocephala and free-living nematodes. Freshw Biol 49:77–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bell SS (1980) Meiofauna–Macrofauna interactions in a high salt marsh habitat. Ecol Monogr 50:487–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borchardt MA, Bott TL (1995) Meiofaunal grazing of bacteria and algae in a piedmont stream. J North Am Benthol Soc 14:278–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bott TL (1996) Algae in microscopic food webs. In: Stevenson RJ, Bothwell ML, Lowe RL (eds) Algal ecology: freshwater benthic ecosystems. Aquatic ecology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp 574–608Google Scholar
  8. Bott TL, Borchardt MA (1999) Grazing of protozoa, bacteria, and diatoms by meiofauna in lotic epibenthic communities. J North Am Benthol Soc 18:499–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown KM, Carman KR, Inchausty V (1994) Density-dependent influences on feeding and metabolism in a fresh-water snail. Oecologia 99:158–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burgmer T, Reiss J, Wickham SA, Hillebrand H (2010) Effects of snail grazers and light on the benthic microbial food web in periphyton communities. Aquat Microb Ecol 61:163–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cardinale BJ, Srivastava DS, Duffy JE, Wright JP, Downing AL, Sankaran M, Jouseau C (2006) Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of trophic groups and ecosystems. Nature 443:989–992PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cattaneo A, Mousseau B (1995) Empirical analysis of removal rate of periphyton by grazers. Oecologia 103:249–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke KR (1993) Nonparametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Aust J Ecol 18:117–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coull BC (1990) Are members of the meiofauna food for higher trophic levels. Trans Am Microsc Soc 109:233–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeNicola DM, McIntire CD (1991) Effects of hydraulic refuge and irradiance on grazer–periphyton interactions in laboratory streams. J North Am Benthol Soc 10:251–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. DeNicola DM, McIntire CD, Lamberti GA, Gregory SV, Ashkenas LR (1990) Temporal patterns of grazer–periphyton interactions in laboratory streams. Freshw Biol 23:475–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diaz Villanueva V, Albarino R, Modenutti B (2004) Grazing impact of two aquatic invertebrates on periphyton from an Andean-Patagonian stream. Arch Hydrobiol 159:455–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feminella JW, Hawkins CP (1995) Interactions between stream herbivores and periphyton: a quantitative analysis of past experiments. J North Am Benthol Soc 14:465–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hart DD (1992) Community organization in streams—the importance of species interactions, physical factors, and chance. Oecologia 91:220–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hertonsson P, Abjornsson K, Bronmark C (2008) Competition and facilitation within and between a snail and a mayfly larva and the effect on the grazing process. Aquat Ecol 42:669–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hillebrand H (2008) Grazing regulates the spatial variability of periphyton biomass. Ecology 89:165–173PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hillebrand H (2009) Meta-analysis of grazer control of periphyton biomass across aquatic ecosystems. J Phycol 45:798–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hillebrand H, Kahlert M (2001) Effect of grazing and nutrient supply on periphyton biomass and nutrient stoichiometry in habitats of different productivity. Limnol Oceanogr 46:1881–1898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hillebrand H, Matthiessen B (2009) Biodiversity in a complex world: consolidation and progress in functional biodiversity research. Ecol Lett 12:1405–1419PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hillebrand H, Kahlert M, Haglund AL, Berninger UG, Nagel S, Wickham S (2002) Control of microbenthic communities by grazing and nutrient supply. Ecology 83:2205–2219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holomuzki JR, Feminella JW, Power ME (2010) Biotic interactions in freshwater benthic habitats. J North Am Benthol Soc 29:220–244Google Scholar
  27. Hooper DU, Chapin FS, Ewel JJ, Hector A, Inchausti P, Lavorel S, Lawton JH, Lodge DM, Loreau M, Naeem S, Schmid B, Setala H, Symstad AJ, Vandermeer J, Wardle DA (2005) Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: a consensus of current knowledge. Ecol Monogr 75:3–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jonsson M, Malmqvist B (2000) Ecosystem process rate increases with animal species richness: evidence from leaf-eating, aquatic insects. Oikos 89:519–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jonsson M, Malmqvist B (2003) Importance of species identity and number for process rates within different stream invertebrate functional feeding groups. J Anim Ecol 72:453–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Karouna NK, Fuller RL (1992) Influence of four grazers on periphyton communities associated with clay tiles and leaves. Hydrobiology 245:53–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lamberti GA, Ashkenas LR, Gregory SV, Steinman AD (1987) Effects of three herbivores on periphyton communities in laboratory streams. J North Am Benthol Soc 6:92–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lancaster J, Robertson AL (1995) Microcrustacean prey and macroinvertebrate predators in a stream food-web. Freshw Biol 34:123–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liess A, Haglund AL (2007) Periphyton responds differentially to nutrients recycled in dissolved or faecal pellet form by the snail grazer T. fluviatilis. Freshw Biol 52:1997–2008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liess A, Hillebrand H (2004) Invited review: direct and indirect effects in herbivore periphyton interactions. Arch Hydrobiol 159:433–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCormick PV (1994) Evaluating the multiple mechanisms underlying herbivore algal interactions in streams. Hydrobiology 291:47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCormick PV, Stevenson RJ (1989) Effects of snail grazing on benthic algal community structure in different nutrient environments. J North Am Benthol Soc 8:162–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mulholland PJ, Steinman AD, Palumbo AV, Elwood JW, Kirschtel DB (1991) Role of nutrient cycling and herbivory in regulating periphyton communities in laboratory streams. Ecology 72:966–982CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Muschiol D, Markovic M, Threis I, Traunspurger W (2008) Predatory copepods can control nematode populations: a functional-response experiment with Eucyclops subterraneus and bacterivorous nematodes. Fundam Appl Limnol 172:317–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Neumann D (1961) Ernährungsbiologie einer rhipidoglossen Kiemenschnecke. Hydrobiology 17:133–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Peters L, Traunspurger W (2005) Species distribution of free-living nematodes and other meiofauna in littoral periphyton communities of lakes. Nematology 7:267–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peters L, Hillebrand H, Traunspurger W (2007a) Spatial variation of grazer effects on epilithic meiofauna and algae. J North Am Benthol Soc 26:78–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peters L, Wetzel MA, Traunspurger W, Rothhaupt KO (2007b) Epilithic communities in a lake littoral zone: the role of water-column transport and habitat development for dispersal and colonization of meiofauna. J North Am Benthol Soc 26:232–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Power ME (1992) Habitat heterogeneity and the functional-significance of fish in river food webs. Ecology 73:1675–1688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmid PE, Schmid-Araya JM (2002) Trophic relationships in temporary and permanent freshwater meiofauna. In: Rundle SD, Robertson A, Schmid-Araya JM (eds) Freshwater meiofauna. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands, pp 295–319Google Scholar
  45. Schmid-Araya JM, Schmid PE (2000) Trophic relationships: integrating meiofauna into a realistic benthic food web. Freshw Biol 44:149–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Soluk DA (1993) Multiple predator effects: predicting combined functional-response of stream fish and invertebrate predators. Ecology 74:219–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Steinman AD (1996) Effects of grazers on freshwater benthic algae. In: Stevenson RJ, Bothwell ML, Lowe RL (eds) Algal ecology: freshwater benthic ecosystems. Aquatic ecology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp 341–374Google Scholar
  48. Stich HB, Brinker A (2005) Less is better: uncorrected versus pheopigmentcorrected photometric chlorophyll-a estimation. Arch Hydrobiol 162:111–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner AM, Bernot RJ, Boes CM (2000) Chemical cues modify species interactions: the ecological consequences of predator avoidance by freshwater snails. Oikos 88:148–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal EcologyUniversity BielefeldBielefeldGermany

Personalised recommendations