Effects of a predatory fish on a tropical detritus-based food web

Boyero, Luz, Rincón, Pedro A., and Pearson, Richard G. (2008) Effects of a predatory fish on a tropical detritus-based food web. Ecological Research, 23 (4). pp. 649-655.

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In contrast to that for grazing systems, relatively little information exists for trophic cascades in detritus-based stream food webs, which are predominant in forested headwater streams. Predator–prey interactions are thought to be weak in these systems, but studies are very scarce, their results are equivocal, and they do not separate the effect of direct consumption from a behavioural response of shredders. We examined the effect of predatory fish on leaf litter breakdown in headwater tropical Australian streams at three levels: (1) the behavioural response of shredder species to predator presence as indicated by chemical cues; (2) the rates of leaf breakdown resulting from shredder activity; and (3) the relationship between shredder species richness and leaf breakdown rates. Our results suggest that predatory fish can have a trait-mediated effect on detritus-based food webs in streams, by reducing consumer activity. We identified reductions in short-term overall activity in response to the presence of predatory fish cues, comparable to those found for grazers. We also observed a visible, albeit statistically non-significant, reduction in consumption rates. Shredder species richness did not affect leaf breakdown rates, and fish presence did not modify this relationship or the differences in breakdown rates among species, suggesting that the overall reduction in leaf breakdown caused by fish presence is due to a reduction in activity in every species. Thus, our laboratory studies have shown that there can be a behavioural basis for trait-mediated trophic cascades linked to fish presence in detrital food webs in streams. However, the strength of fish effects depends on environmental circumstances, and field studies of litter breakdown in streams with and without predatory fish are required if we are to elucidate the ecological significance of our observations.

Item ID: 2318
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-1703
Keywords: behaviour; chemical cues; leaf breakdown; trophic cascade; tropical streams
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2009 06:38
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060204 Freshwater Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830299 Fisheries- Wild Caught not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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