Do small-scale exclosure/enclosure experiments predict the effects of large-scale extirpation of freshwater migratory fauna?
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A variety of theoretical and empirical studies indicate that the abilities of small-scale experiments to predict responses to large-scale perturbations vary. Small-scale experiments often do not predict the directions of large-scale responses, and relatively few empirical studies have examined whether small-scale experiments predict the magnitudes of large-scale responses. Here we present an empirical example of small-scale manipulations predicting not only the directions but also the magnitudes of the effects of whole-catchment, decades-long decimation of migratory freshwater shrimp populations. In streams of Puerto Rico (USA), we used arena sizes of < 2 m2 in 1- to 4-week exclosure/enclosure experiments. Effects of small-scale experiments largely matched those of large-scale shrimp loss above dams for a variety of response variables (abiotic and biotic factors including epilithic fine sediments, algae and organic matter, and invertebrate grazers, detritivores, and predators). The results of our extrapolation contrast with studies of small- versus large-scale perturbations in the temperate zone. Our findings are likely explained by: a set of response variables that are more dominated by within-patch processes than exchange processes, an experimental manipulation that encompassed the characteristic scales of response variables, our use of open arenas lacking cage artifacts, and/or our combination of two distinct experimental approaches (exclosures and enclosures). Based on our study design, we suggest that extrapolation across experimental scales can be greatly enhanced by embedding open arenas within large-scale conditions that represent all treatment levels.
KeywordsFreshwater shrimps Puerto Rico Spatial scales Temporal scales Tropical stream
We thank G. Benison, J. Chastant, A. Covich, L. Erickson, M. Freeman, A. Garman, S. Greenstone, R. Hardy, M. Hunter, J. Merriam, J. Meyer, O. Sarnelle, K. Smith, B. Wallace, and anonymous reviewers for assistance and manuscript comments. Support came from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Luquillo LTER (BSR 8811902, DEB9411973, DEB0080538, DEB0218039), a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DEB 0308543), the US Department of Agriculture (grants 10-21-RR551-141, 10-21-RR250-109); and the NSF Graduate Fellowship program (fellowship to EAG). Experiments complied with current US law.
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