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    Author(s): Lee M. Demi; Jonathan P. Benstead; Amy D. Rosemond; John C. Maerz
    Date: 2019
    Source: Functional Ecology
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)

    Description

    Increases in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability are changing animal communities, partly by altering stoichiometric imbalances between consumers and their food. Testing relationships between resource stoichiometry and consumer assemblage structure requires ecosystem-level manipulations that have been lacking to date. We analysed patterns of macroinvertebrate community composition in five detritus-based headwater streams subject to experimental whole-stream N and P additions that spanned a steep gradient in dissolved N:P ratio (2:1, 8:1, 16:1, 32:1, 128:1) over 2 years, following a 1-year pre-treatment period. We predicted that shifts in leaf litter stoichiometry would drive overall patterns of community composition via greater responses of shredders to enrichment than other taxa, as shredders dominate primary consumer biomass and experience larger consumer–resource elemental imbalances than other functional groups in stream ecosystems. Specifically, we expected litter C:P to be a significant predictor of shredder biomass given the greater relative imbalances between shredder and litter C:P than C:N. Finally, we tested whether shredder responses to enrichment were related to other taxon-level traits, including body size and stoichiometry, larval life span and growth rate. Whole-community composition shifted similarly across the five streams after enrichment, largely driven by increased shredder and predator biomass. These shifts were limited to the autumn/winter seasons and related to decreased leaf litter C:P, highlighting important links between the quality of seasonal litter subsidies and community phenology. Among 10 taxa that drove structural shifts, two declined while other taxa from the same functional/taxonomic groups responded positively, suggesting that specific life-history traits may determine sensitivity to enrichment. Increases in total shredder biomass, and in biomass of several common shredders, were associated with lower litter C:P. Body C:P did not predict shredder response to enrichment. However, weak negative relationships between shredder response and body size, and larval life span, suggest that small-bodied and short-lived taxa may be more responsive to shifting resource stoichiometry. Moderate anthropogenic increases in N and P availability affect resource stoichiometry and can alter animal communities, influencing additional food web and ecosystem properties. We provide support for ecological stoichiometry as a framework for predicting such outcomes based on changes in the elemental composition of resource pools.

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    Citation

    Demi, Lee M.; Benstead, Jonathan P.; Rosemond, Amy D.; Maerz, John C. 2019. Experimental N and P additions alter stream macroinvertebrate community composition via taxon-level responses to shifts in detrital resource stoichiometry. Functional Ecology. 79: 30-. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13289.

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    Keywords

    Community structure, detritus, ecological stoichiometry, nitrogen, phosphorus, stream

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