Skip to main content

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

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Abele LG (1992) A review of the grapsid crab genus Sesarma (Crustacea: Decapoda: Grapsidae) in America, with the description of a new genus. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 527, Washington, DC

  • Aira M, Sampedro L, Monroy F, Domínguez J (2008) Detritivorous earthworms directly modify the structure, thus altering the functioning of a microdecomposer food web. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 40:2511–2516

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Arim M, Marquet PA (2004) Intraguild predation: a widespread interaction related to species biology. Ecology Letters 7:557–564

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Awmack CS, Leather SR (2002) Host plant quality and fecundity in herbivorous insects. Annual Review of Entomology 47:817–844

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Barros-Bellanda HCH, Zucoloto FS (2001) Influence of chorion ingestion on the performance of Ascia monuste and its association with cannibalism. Ecological Entomology 26:557–561

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bertness MD, Callaway R (1994) Positive interactions in communities. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 9:191–193

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bless R (1977) Beitrag zur Ernährungsweise ausgewählter Nacktschneckenarten des Naturparks Kottenforst-Ville. Journal of Pest Science 50:1612–4758

    Google Scholar 

  • Bobeldyk AM, Ramirez A (2007) Leaf breakdown in a tropical headwater stream (Puerto rico): the role of freshwater shrimps and detritivorous insects. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 22:581–590

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bradford MA, Jones TH, Bardgett RD, Black HIJ, Boag B, Bonkowski M, Cook R, Eggers T, Gange AC, Grayston SJ, Kandeler E, McCaig AE, Newington JE, Prosser JI, Setälä H, Staddon PL, Tordoff GM, Tscherko D, Lawton JH (2002) Impacts of soil faunal community composition on model grassland ecosystems. Science 298:615–618

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buck TL, Breed GA, Pennings SC, Chase ME, Zimmer M, Carefoot TH (2003) Diet choice in an omnivorous salt-marsh crab: different food types, body size, and habitat complexity. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 292:103–116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cebrian J (1999) Patterns in the fate of production in plant communities. American Naturalist 154:449–468

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cornelissen JHC, Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Díaz S, Grime JP, Marzano B, Cabido M, Vendramini F, Cerabolini B (2002) Leaf structure and defence control litter decomposition rate across species and life forms in regional floras on two continents. New Phytologist 143:191–200

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Daiber FC (1977) Salt-marsh animals: Distributions related to tidal flooding, salinity and vegetation. In: Chapman VJ (ed) Wet coastal ecosystems. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 79–108

    Google Scholar 

  • De Deyn GB, Raaljmakers CE, Zoomer HR, Berg MP, de Rulter PC, Verhoef HA, Bezemer TM, van der Putten WH (2003) Soil invertebrate fauna enhances grassland succession and diversity. Nature 422:711–713

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diehl S (2003) The evolution and maintenance of omnivory: dynamic constraints and the role of food quality. Ecology 84:2557–2567

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Evans-White MA, Dodds WK (2003) Ecosystem significance of crayfishes and stonerollers in a prairie stream: functional differences between co-occurring omnivores. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22:423–441

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fagan WF (1997) Omnivory as a stabilizing feature of natural communities. American Naturalist 150:554–567

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gonzalez G, Seastedt TR (2001) Soil fauna and plant litter decomposition in tropical and subalpine forests. Ecology 82:955–964

    Google Scholar 

  • Grime JP, Cornelissen JHC, Thompson K, Hodgson JG (1996) Evidence of a causal connection between anti-herbivore defence and the decomposition rate of leaves. Oikos 77:489–494

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ho CK, Pennings SC (2008) Consequences of omnivory for trophic interactions on a salt marsh shrub. Ecology 89:1714–1722

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman RL, Payne JA (1969) Diplopods as carnivores. Ecology 50:1096–1098

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holt RD, Polis GA (1997) A theoretical framework for intraguild predation. American Naturalist 149:745–764

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jonsson M, Malmqvist B (2003) Mechanisms behind positive diversity effects on ecosystem functioning: testing the facilitation and interference hypotheses. Oecologia 134:554–559

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jonsson M, Malmqvist B, Hoffsten PO (2001) Leaf litter breakdown rates in boreal streams: does shredder species richness matter? Freshwater Biology 46:161–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kautz G, Zimmer M, Topp W (2000) Responses of the parthenogenetic isopod, Trichoniscus pusillus, to changes in food quality. Pedobiologia 44:75–85

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laakso J, Setälä H, Palojärvi A (2000) Influence of decomposer food web structure and nitrogen availability on plant growth. Plant and Soil 225:153–165

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lawrence KL, Wise DH (2000) Spider predation on forest-floor Collembola and evidence for indirect effects on decomposition. Pedobiologia 44:33–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lawrence KL, Wise DH (2004) Unexpected indirect effect of spiders on the rate of litter disappearance in a deciduous forest. Pedobiologia 48:149–157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee SC, Silliman BR (2006) Competitive displacement of a detritivorous salt marsh snail. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 339:75–85

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matsuda H, Kawasaki K, Shigesada N, Teramoto E, Ricciardi LM (1986) Switching effect on the stability of the prey-predator system with three trophic levels. Journal of Theoretical Biology 122:251–262

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matsumura M, Trafelet-Smith GM, Gratton C, Finke DL, Fagan WF, Denno RF (2004) Does intraguild predation enhance predator performance? A stoichiometric perspective. Ecology 85:2601–2615

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mattson WJ (1980) Herbivory in relation to plant nitrogen-content. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:119–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCann K, Hastings A (1997) Re-evaluating the omnivory-stability relationship in food webs. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 264:1249–1254

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newell SY (1996) Established and potential impacts of eukaryotic mycelial decomposers in marine/terrestrial ecotones. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 200:187–206

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newell SY (2001a) Fungal biomass and productivity in standing-decaying leaves of black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus). Marine and Freshwater Research 52:249–255

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newell SY (2001b) Multiyear patterns of fungal biomass dynamics and productivity within naturally decaying smooth cordgrass shoots. Limnology and Oceanography 46:573–583

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newell SY, Bärlocher F (1993) Removal of fungal and total organic-matter from decaying cordgrass leaves by shredder snails. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 171:39–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nisikawa U (2000) Effects of crayfish on leaf processing and invertebrate colonisation of leaves in a headwater stream: decoupling of a trophic cascade. Oecologia 124:608–614

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pennings SC, Carefoot TH, Siska EL, Chase ME, Page TA (1998) Feeding preferences of a generalist salt-marsh crab: relative importance of multiple plant traits. Ecology 79:1968–1979

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pimm SL, Lawton JH (1977) Number of trophic levels in ecological communities. Nature 268:329–331

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pimm SL, Lawton JH (1978) Feeding on more than one trophic level. Nature 275:542–544

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pomeroy LR, Wiegert RG (1981) The ecology of a salt marsh. Springer, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Preisser EL, Bolnick DI, Benard MF (2005) Scared to death? The effects of intimidation and consumption in predator-prey interactions. Ecology 86:501–509

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rice DL (1982) The detritus nitrogen problem - new observations and perspectives from organic geochemistry. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 9:153–162

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rietsma CS, Valiela I, Sylvester-Serianni A (1982) Food preferences of dominant salt marsh herbivores and detritivores. Marine Ecology 3:179–189

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosi-Marshall EJ, Wallace JB (2002) Invertebrate food webs along a stream resource gradient. Freshwater Biology 46:129–141

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmitz OJ (2004) From mesocosms to the field: the role and value of cage experiments in understanding top-down effects in ecosystems. In: Weisser WW, Siemann E (eds) Insects and Ecosystem Function, Springer Series in Ecological Studies. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 277–302

  • Seiple W (1979) Distribution, habitat preferences and breeding periods in the crustaceans Sesarma cinereum and S. reticulatum (Brachyura: Decapoda: Grapsidae). Marine Biology 52:77–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silliman BR, Newell SY (2003) Fungal farming in a snail. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100:15643–15648

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Silliman BR, Zieman JC (2001) Top-down control of Spartina alterniflora production by periwinkle grazing in a Virginia salt marsh. Ecology 82:2830–2845

    Google Scholar 

  • Teal JM (1958) Distribution of fiddler crabs in Georgia salt marshes. Ecology 39:185–193

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teal JM (1962) Energy-flow in salt-marsh ecosystem of Georgia. Ecology 43:614

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thompson LS (1984) Comparison of the diets of the tidal marsh snail, Melampus bidentatus and the amphipod, Orchestia grillus. Nautilus 98:44–53

    Google Scholar 

  • Valiela I, Wilson J, Buchsbaum R, Rietsma C, Bryant D, Foreman K, Teal J (1984) Importance of chemical composition of salt marsh litter on decay rates and feeding by detritivores. Bulletin of Marine Science 35:261–269

    Google Scholar 

  • van de Wolfshaar KE, de Roos AM, Persson L (2006) Size-dependent interactions inhibit coexistence in intraguild predation systems with life-history omnivory. American Naturalist 168:62–75

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • White TCR (1993) The inadequate environment. Springer, Berlin

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wright MS, Covich AP (2005) Relative importance of bacteria and fungi in a tropical headwater stream: leaf decomposition and invertebrate feeding preference. Microbial Ecology 49:536–546

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wu X, Duffy EJ, Reich PB, Sun S (2011) A brown-world cascade in the dung decomposer food web of an alpine meadow: effects of predator interactions and warming. Ecological Monographs 81: 313–328

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Y, Richardson J, Negishi JN (2004) Detritus processing, ecosystem engineering and benthic diversity: a test of predator-omnivore interference. Journal of Animal Ecology 73:756–766

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Topp W (1999) Relations between woodlice (Isopoda: Oniscidea), and microbial density and activity in the field. Biology and Fertility of Soils 30:117–123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Pennings SC, Buck TL, Carefoot TH (2002) Species-specific patterns of litter processing by terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea) in high intertidal salt marshes and coastal forests. Functional Ecology 16:596–607

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Kautz G, Topp W (2003) Leaf litter-colonizing microbiota: supplementary food source or indicator of food quality for Porcellio scaber (Isopoda: Oniscidea)? European Journal of Soil Biology 39:209–216

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Pennings SC, Buck TL, Carefoot TH (2004) Salt marsh litter and detritivores: a closer look at redundancy. Estuaries 27:753–769

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Kautz G, Topp W (2005) Do woodlice and earthworms interact synergistically in leaf litter decomposition? Functional Ecology 19:7–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer M, Topp W (1997) Does leaf litter quality influence population parameters of the common woodlouse, Porcellio scaber Latr., 1804 (Crustacea: Isopoda)? Biology and Fertility of Soils 24: 435–441

Download references

Acknowledgements

Experiments described herein comply with the current laws of the U.S.A. and were conducted in conformity with the “Guiding principles in the care and use of animals” approved by the Council of the American Physiological Society. AB and CE were financially supported through grants from the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. Franziska Seer, Gregor Putze and Yury Zablotski provided invaluable assistance at all stages of the field work. We thank the U.S. National Science Foundation (OCE06-20959) for financial support. This is contribution number 1017 of the University of Georgia Marine Institute. This work is a contribution of the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER program.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martin Zimmer.

Additional information

Christine Ewers and Anika Beiersdorf contributed equally.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ewers, C., Beiersdorf, A., Więski, K. et al. Predator/Prey-Interactions Promote Decomposition of Low-Quality Detritus. Wetlands 32, 931–938 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-012-0326-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-012-0326-4

Keywords

  • Decomposition processes
  • Predator/prey-interaction
  • Omnivory
  • Saltmarsh
  • Spatial subsidy