Wetlands

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 931–938 | Cite as

Predator/Prey-Interactions Promote Decomposition of Low-Quality Detritus

  • Christine Ewers
  • Anika Beiersdorf
  • Kazimierz Więski
  • Steven C. Pennings
  • Martin Zimmer
Article

Abstract

Predation on detritivores is expected to decelerate detritivore-mediated decomposition processes. In field mesocosms, we studied whether the decomposition of leaf and needle litter of live oak (Quercus virginiana) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), respectively, was affected by saltmarsh detritivores (Gastropoda: Littoraria irrorata and Melampus bidentatus) and predacious omnivores (Decapoda: Armases cinereum) and their interactions. Both crabs and snails alone increased decomposition (mass loss) rates of oak litter, while a combination of both resulted in the same mass loss as in animal-free controls, probably due to crabs feeding on snails rather than litter. Neither crabs nor snails alone affected mass loss of pine litter, but a combination of both significantly increased decomposition rates. Irrespective of the litter type, crabs significantly increased mortality of the snails but gained biomass only on pine litter and only when detritivorous snails were present. Our findings suggest that unidirectional facilitation of omnivorous semi-terrestrial crabs by their detritivorous prey (saltmarsh snails) promotes the decomposition of low-quality (pine) litter. On high-quality (oak) litter, by contrast, negative effects of the predator prevail, resulting in a drop of decomposition rates when crabs were present, probably owing to predation on detritivorous snails. Thus, the effects of predator/prey-interactions on decomposition processes are context-dependent and are controlled by resource quality.

Keywords

Decomposition processes Predator/prey-interaction Omnivory Saltmarsh Spatial subsidy 

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Ewers
    • 1
  • Anika Beiersdorf
    • 1
  • Kazimierz Więski
    • 2
  • Steven C. Pennings
    • 2
  • Martin Zimmer
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Zoologisches InstitutChristian-Albrechts-Universität zu KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.FB Organismische Biologie, AG Ökologie, Biodiversität & Evolution der TiereParis-Lodron-UniversitätSalzburgAustria

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