Non-native consumers can significantly alter processes at the population, community, and ecosystem level, and they are a major concern in many aquatic systems. Although the community-level effects of non-native anuran tadpoles are well understood, their ecosystem-level effects have been less studied. Here, I tested the hypothesis that natural densities of non-native bullfrog tadpoles (Lithobates catesbeianus) and native Woodhouse's toad tadpoles (Anaxyrus woodhousii) have dissimilar effects on aquatic ecosystem processes because of differences in grazing and nutrient recycling (excretion and egestion). I measured bullfrog and Woodhouse's carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus nutrient recycling rates. Then, I determined the impact of tadpole grazing on periphyton biomass (chlorophyll a) during a 39-day mesocosm experiment. Using the same experiment, I also quantified the effect of tadpole grazing and nutrient excretion on periphyton net primary production (NPP). Lastly I measured how dissolved and particulate nutrient concentrations and respiration rates changed in the presence of the two tadpole species. Per unit biomass, I found that bullfrog and Woodhouse's tadpoles excreted nitrogen and phosphorus at similar rates, though Woodhouse's tadpoles egested more carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. However, bullfrogs recycled nutrients at higher N:C and N:P ratios. Tadpole excretion did not cause a detectable change in dissolved nutrient concentrations. However, the percent phosphorus in mesocosm detritus was significantly higher in both tadpole treatments, compared to a tadpole-free control. Neither tadpole species decreased periphyton biomass through grazing, although bullfrog nutrient excretion increased areal NPP. This result was due to higher biomass, not higher biomass-specific productivity. Woodhouse's tadpoles significantly decreased respiration in the mesocosm detritus, while bullfrog tadpoles had no effect. This research highlights functional differences between species by showing non-native bullfrog tadpoles and native Woodhouse's tadpoles may have different effects on arid, aquatic ecosystems. Specifically, it indicates bullfrog introductions may alter primary productivity and particulate nutrient dynamics.
- The effects of non-native and native anuran tadpoles on aquatic ecosystem processes