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The β-richness of two detritivore caddisflies affects fine organic matter export

Abstract

We used stream networks as a model system to test whether the ecosystem function, upstream production, and export of fine organic particles, an important subsidy to downstream habitats, would vary between two stream networks with identical detritivore species but different spatial distributions (i.e. high or low β-richness). Our experiment employed artificial stream networks with two simulated tributaries. We used two species of detritivorous caddisflies, Lepidostoma sp. and Pycnopsyche guttifer, in either sympatry (low β-richness) or allopatry (high β-richness) in the tributaries of each network. The tributaries were given either senesced or green speckled alder (Alnus incana rugosa). In the networks with senesced leaves, particle export was more than twice as great when the detritivores were in allopatry whereas interference competition in sympatry reduced particle export. In the networks with green leaves, particle export did not significantly vary between the allopatric and sympatric distributions because the interference competition was reduced and the two species had similar feeding rates on green leaves. Humans are altering β-richness by homogenizing or differentiating flora and fauna across habitats; however, little is known about how altering this type of biodiversity will affect ecosystem functions. Our experimental manipulation is a simple version of a change in the β-richness of the detritivores in a more complex stream network in nature. These results may indicate that shifts in species distributions across sites may significantly affect ecosystem functions, even when no species are lost from a watershed.

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Acknowledgments

Many thanks go to Gary Belovsky for helpful comments and critique that significantly improved the quality of this manuscript. We also thank Todd Crowl, Jennifer Tank, and Jason McLachlan for advice and guidance during the design of this experiment. This work was funded by the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center, Notre Dame Center for Environmental Science and Technology, and NSF IGERT grant award # 0504495.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Patrick.

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Communicated by Barbara Downes.

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Patrick, C.J., Fernandez, D.H. The β-richness of two detritivore caddisflies affects fine organic matter export. Oecologia 172, 1105–1115 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-012-2550-2

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Keywords

  • Meta-ecosystem
  • Decomposition
  • Spatial distribution
  • Network
  • Subsidy