Consumer Diversity Enhances Secondary Production by Complementarity Effects in Experimental Ciliate Assemblages
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- Moorthi, S.D., Hillebrand, H., Wahl, M. et al. Estuaries and Coasts: J CERF (2008) 31: 152. doi:10.1007/s12237-007-9015-6
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Diversity within distinct trophic groups is proposed to increase ecosystem functions such as the productivity of this group and the efficiency of resource use. This proposition has mainly been tested with plant communities, consumer assemblages, and multitrophic microbial assemblages. Very few studies tested how this diversity–productivity relationship varies under different environmental regimes such as disturbances. Coastal benthic assemblages are strongly affected by temporal instability of abiotic conditions. Therefore, we manipulated benthic ciliate species richness in three laboratory experiments with three diversity levels each and analyzed biomass production over time in the presence or absence of a single application of a disturbance (ultraviolet-B [UVB] radiation). In two out of three experiments, a clear positive relationship between diversity and productivity was found, and also the remaining experiment showed a small but nonsignificant effect of diversity. Disturbance significantly reduced the total ciliate biomass, but did not alter the relation between species richness and biomass production. Significant overyielding (i.e., higher production at high diversity) was observed, and additive partitioning indicated that this was caused by niche complementarity between ciliate species. Species-specific contribution to the total biomass varied idiosyncratically with species richness, disturbance, and composition of the community. We thus present evidence for a significant effect of consumer diversity on consumer biomass in a coastal ciliate assemblage, which remained consistent at different disturbance regimes.