electric exclusion

Linking Species and Ecosystems: Different Biotic Assemblages Cause Interstream Differences in Organic Matter

Linking Species and Ecosystems: Different Biotic Assemblages Cause Interstream Differences in Organic Matter
C. M. Pringle, Nina Hemphill, W. H. McDowell, Angela Bednarek and James G. March
Ecology
Vol. 80, No. 6 (Sep., 1999), pp. 1860-1872

Abstract: 
Here we test the hypothesis that differences in macrobiotic assemblages can lead to differences in the quantity and quality of organic matter in benthic depositional environments among streams in montane Puerto Rico. We experimentally manipulated biota over a 30–40 d period in two streams with distinctly different macrobiotic assemblages: one characterized by high densities of omnivorous shrimps (Decapoda: Atyidae and Xiphocarididae) and no predaceous fishes, and one characterized by low densities of shrimps and the presence of predaceous fishes. To incorporate the natural hydrologic regime and to avoid confounding artifacts associated with cage enclosures/exclosures (e.g., high sedimentation), we used electricity as a mechanism for experimental exclusion, in situ. In each stream, shrimps and/or fishes were excluded from specific areas of rock substrata in four pools using electric “fences” attached to solar-powered fence chargers. In the stream lacking predaceous fishes (Sonadora), the unelectrified control treatment was almost exclusively dominated by high densities of omnivorous shrimps that constantly ingested fine particulate material from rock surfaces. Consequently, the control had significantly lower levels of inorganic sediments, organic material, carbon, and nitrogen than the exclusion treatment, as well as less variability in these parameters. Tenfold more organic material (as ash-free dry mass, AFDM) and fivefold more nitrogen accrued in shrimp exclosures (10.6 g AFDM/m2, 0.2 g N/m2) than in controls (1.1 g AFDM/m2, 0.04 g N/m2). By reducing the quantity of fine particulate organic material and associated nitrogen in benthic environments, omnivorous shrimps potentially affect the supply of this important resource to other trophic levels. The small amount of fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) that remained in control treatments (composed of sparse algal cells) was of higher quality than that in shrimp exclosures. This is evidenced by the significantly lower carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio (an indicator of food quality, with relatively low C/N indicating higher food quality) in the control relative to the shrimp exclosure treatment. In contrast, the stream with predaceous fishes (Bisley) was characterized by very low numbers of shrimps, and macrobiota had no significant effect on benthic sediments, organic matter, C, N, and C/N. All parameters were highly variable through time, with levels and ranges in variability similar to the shrimp exclusion treatment in the Sonadora. Our experimental results are consistent with findings of an independent survey of six streams in four different drainages. Four streams that had an abundance of omnivorous shrimps, but lacked predaceous fishes, had extremely low levels of fine benthic organic and inorganic material. In contrast, two streams that had low densities of shrimps and contained predaceous fishes had significantly higher levels. Results show a strong linkage between species and ecosystem characteristics: interstream differences in the quantity and quality of fine benthic organic matter resources were determined by the nature of the macrobiotic assemblage. Furthermore, patterns in the distribution of shrimp assemblages reflected landscape patterns in the benthic depositional environment among streams.

the role of omnivory in a neotropical stream: separating diurnal and nocturnal effects

The Role of Omnivory in a Neotropical Stream: Separating Diurnal and Nocturnal Effects
Catherine M. Pringle and Toshihide Hamazaki
Ecology
Vol. 79, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 269-280

Abstract: 
The role of omnivory in structuring communities is potentially great in lowland neotropical streams that are characterized by an abundance of macroconsumers that consume both insects and algae. Here, we separate effects of natural densities of diurnal fishes and nocturnal shrimps in structuring the benthic community of a stream draining Costa Rica's Atlantic slope. We experimentally manipulated the spatial and temporal access of fishes and shrimps to benthic resources, in situ, using electric "fences" powered by solar-powered fence chargers. Both fishes and shrimps significantly reduced inorganic sediment mass, organic ashfree dry mass (AFDM), densities of larval Chironomidae, and total insects: their combined effects were greater than effects of either group alone, and there was no significant interaction. Fishes shifted algal community composition from diatoms to green and blue-green algae and benthic insect communities towards chironomids, while shrimps had no significant effect on community composition. Effects of fishes were generally greater than those of shrimps, and this is due, in part, to higher natural densities and foraging pressures of fishes. Furthermore, shrimps foraged for significantly longer periods of time in the treatment where fishes were excluded than in the combined fish and shrimp access treatment, suggesting that diurnally feeding fishes are strong "interactors," mediating resource availability to nocturnally feeding shrimps. Natural erosion and sediment-mediated effects of macroconsumers (both direct and indirect) also affected algal communities: a manual sediment removal experiment resulted in significant reductions of diatom biovolume and increases in the filament length of green and blue-green algae. Our results show the importance of: (1) assessing macroconsumer effects in a relatively natural depositional environment subject to background erosion and sloughing (i.e., in this case by using electric exclosures); (2) evaluating effects of natural densities of both diurnal and nocturnal macroconsumers through time in the context of these abiotic effects; and (3) distinguishing between the response of different types of algal resources (e.g., diatoms vs. green and blue-green algae), which are differentially affected by sedimentation and erosion. Cage experiments, short-term observations, or one-time sampling of undifferentiated "algae" may artificially overestimate trophic effects and underestimate abiotic effects. We found no evidence of a trophic cascade. Our findings are in agreement with the theoretical prediction that large-sized omnivores have strong direct trophic (feeding) effects, both on smaller primary consumers (insects) and basal resources (algae).
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