Consumer diversity indirectly changes prey nutrient content

Hillebrand, Helmut, Gamfeldt, L., Jonsson, P.R. and Matthiessen, Birte (2009) Consumer diversity indirectly changes prey nutrient content Marine Ecology Progress Series, 380 . pp. 33-41. DOI 10.3354/meps07937.

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Ecological stoichiometry can be a powerful tool to understand food web consequences of altered biogeochemical cycles as well as consequences of biodiversity loss on biogeochemistry and has proved to be a suitable framework to predict effects of consumers on the nutrient content of their prey. However, predictions from ecological stoichiometry have mainly been tested using single consumer species, whereas in most natural ecosystems several consumer species coexist. We conducted 2 outdoor mesocosm experiments with marine rock pool communities to test whether species richness and species combination of benthic invertebrates affected the nutrient content of periphyton. We independently manipulated 12 different consumer combinations ranging from 0 to 6 (2004) or 0 to 4 (2005) grazer species and measured the biomass and nutrient content of the algae. Grazers included 3 gastropods and 3 crustaceans. In 2005, we additionally analyzed animal nutrient content and N excretion rate. Algal biomass and C:N ratios decreased in the presence of grazers in both years, indicating that the remaining algae had higher internal N content. Also, both biomass (2004 and 2005) and C:N ratios (only 2004) decreased even further when grazer richness increased. In 2004, significant net diversity effects of grazer richness on periphyton C:N ratios indicated that periphyton N content under multispecies grazing could not be predicted from the effect of single species. In 2005, significant net diversity effects on C:N ratios were rare, but periphyton C:N ratios consistently decreased with increasing grazer excretion rate, indicating that higher nitrogen regeneration by grazers led to higher N incorporation by algae. The effects of species richness were mainly affected by the presence of one efficient grazer, the gastropod Littorina littorea. Our experiments indicate that non-additive intraguild interactions may qualitatively alter the stoichiometric effects of multispecies consumer assemblages.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Ecology; Biodiversity; Ecological stoichiometry; Ecosystem function; Algae; Grazer; Trophic interaction
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EOE-N Experimental Ecology - Food Webs
OceanRep > GEOMAR
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.3354/meps07937
ISSN: 0171-8630
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2009 14:49
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2012 14:51

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