Consumer identity, abundance and nutrient concentration affect epiphyte diversity in an experimental eelgrass system

Jaschinski, Sybill, Flöder, Sabine and Sommer, Ulrich (2010) Consumer identity, abundance and nutrient concentration affect epiphyte diversity in an experimental eelgrass system Oikos, 119 (11). pp. 1745-1754. DOI 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2010.18377.x.

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Conceptual models predict a unimodal effect of consumer abundance on prey diversity with the highest diversity at intermediate consumer abundance (intermediate disturbance hypothesis). Consumer selectivity and prey productivity are assumed to be further important determinants. Preferential grazing on dominant prey species favoured by high nutrient supply is supposed to increase prey diversity, whereas the effect of consumers on prey diversity may be negative under low nutrient conditions (grazer reversal hypothesis). We tested the effect of four common consumers the isopod Idotea baltica, the amphipod Gammarus oceanicus, and the gastropods Littorina littorea and Rissoa membranacea on diversity and composition of epiphytes growing on eelgrass Zostera marina. Consumer density was manipulated (four levels: grazer free control, low, medium, high) based on abundances observed in eelgrass systems. Additionally, we manipulated nutrient supply (three levels) and the presence of Idotea in a factorial experiment. The impact of consumer abundance on epiphyte diversity varied depending on consumer identity and epiphyte evenness was affected rather than species number in this short-term experiment. Idotea reduced epiphyte diversity (Shannon-Wiener index H') and Gammarus increased epiphyte diversity. Littorina had no effect at low and medium abundance, but a negative effect in the high density treatment. Only Rissoa supported the conceptual models as it caused the proposed unimodal pattern in epiphyte diversity. The varying species-specific selectivity of the studied consumers is likely to explain their diverse impact on epiphyte diversity. Nutrients enhanced epiphyte diversity at medium enrichment, whereas higher nutrient supply reduced epiphyte diversity. The effect of Idotea changed from negative at low nutrient concentration to positive at higher nutrient supply, supporting the grazer reversal hypothesis. This study implies that consumer species identity and nutrient concentrations are important in controlling prey diversity and composition. Different consumer selectivity and changes in selectivity with growing consumer abundance and nutrient concentration are the causal factors for this effect.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Botany; eelgrass; food web
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EOE-N Experimental Ecology - Food Webs
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2010.18377.x
ISSN: 0030-1299
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2010 07:16
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2017 13:44

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