, Volume 170, Issue 4, pp 1077–1087 | Cite as

Reciprocal subsidies in ponds: does leaf input increase frog biomass export?

  • Julia E. EarlEmail author
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
Community ecology - Original research


Reciprocal subsidies occur when ecosystems are paired, both importing and exporting resources to each other. The input of subsidies increases reciprocal subsidy export, but it is unclear how this changes with other important factors, such as ambient resources. We provide a conceptual framework for reciprocal subsidies and empirical data testing this framework using a pond–forest system in Missouri, USA. Our experiment used in situ pond mesocosms and three species of anurans: wood frogs, American toads, and southern leopard frogs. We predicted that increases in ambient resources (primary productivity) and detrital subsidy input (deciduous tree leaves) into pond mesocosms would increase reciprocal export (frog biomass) to the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem. In contrast, we found that increases in primary productivity consistently decreased frog biomass, except with leaf litter inputs. With leaf inputs, primary productivity did not affect the export of frogs, indicating that leaf detritus and associated microbial communities may be more important than algae for frog production. We found that subsidy inputs tended to increase reciprocal exports, and thus partial concordance with our conceptual framework.


Spatial subsidy Primary productivity Allochthonous Detritus Amphibians 



We thank K. Cohagen and P. Castello for help in the field, J. Fairchild for helpful advice, P. Castello, D. Drake, S. Olson, and L. Johnson for help in the laboratory, and C. Rabeni, R. Holdo, J. Chase, C. Shulse, and several anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript. Financial support was provided by the National Science Foundation (DEB-0239943) and the MU Alumni Association. JEE was supported by a Life Sciences Fellowship, a TWA Scholarship, and a Conservation Biology Fellowship through the University of Missouri, as well as an Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship. Research was conducted with Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Collecting Permits 13759, 14119, and 14467 and under University of Missouri Animal Care Protocols 3368 and 6144.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 70 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 69 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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