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Spatial and seasonal variation in the ecological significance of nutrient recycling by larval salamanders in Appalachian headwater streamsAuthor(s): S. Conor Keitzer; Reuben R. Goforth
Source: Freshwater Science
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Southern Research Station
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DescriptionSalamanders are abundant consumers in many temperate streams and may be important recyclers of biologically essential nutrients, but their ecological role is poorly understood. The ecological significance of nutrient recycling by salamanders may vary spatially and seasonally because of their potentially patchy distribution in streams and the dynamic nature of stream hydrology and other nutrient fluxes. We examined the spatial and seasonal variation of salamander-driven nutrient recycling in 3 headwater streams in the southern Appalachian Mountains. We quantified the aggregate areal excretion rates of N (NH4+-N) for the larvae of the 2 most abundant salamander species in these steams before and after leaf fall to examine spatial and seasonal variation in the supply of nutrients from salamanders. We used short-term nutrient additions in each stream to examine temporal heterogeneity in the ecosystem demand for NH4+-N. Before leaf fall, salamanders were capable of meeting ∼10% of the ecosystem demand for NH4+-N and could turn over the ambient nutrient pool in ∼3 km. The significance of this contribution declined to ∼3% after leaf fall and the turnover length increased 7×. The ecological significance of salamander nutrient excretion varied by as much as 17× within streams and was as high as 30% of the nutrient demand in some stream sections, a result suggesting that salamanders may create biogeochemical hotspots in these nutrient-limited ecosystems. Thus, salamanders appear to be capable of contributing substantially to stream nutrient cycles through the excretion of limiting nutrients and may be underappreciated members of headwater stream ecosystems, particularly at small spatial scales. However, this contribution varied substantially seasonally and spatially.
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CitationKeitzer, S. Conor; Goforth, Reuben R. 2013. Spatial and seasonal variation in the ecological significance of nutrient recycling by larval salamanders in Appalachian headwater streams. Freshwater Science. 32(4): 1136-1147. https://doi.org/10.1899/13-002.1.
KeywordsConsumer-drive nutrient recycling, amphibian ecological roles, headwater stream, salamander, Desmognathus quadramaculatus, Eurycea wilderae
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