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Peeing in the Pool: how aquatic insect excretion reflects and affects nutrient recycling in two desert streams

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Aquatic macroinvertebrates can be key contributors to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling in streams. Though they exhibit intense control via trophic interactions and nutrient conversion, they may be influenced

Aquatic macroinvertebrates can be key contributors to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling in streams. Though they exhibit intense control via trophic interactions and nutrient conversion, they may be influenced by other environmental factors that can determine total excretion-derived N, P, and N:P. Garden Canyon and Ramsey Canyon, two streams in the Huachuca Mountain Range in Southern Arizona, USA, host similar insect communities, but only Garden Canyon experiences a seasonal P limitation due to the co-precipitation of phosphate with calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in its benthic substrate (Corman et al. 2015). I performed an analysis of excretion rates of aquatic insects living in these streams to test if the P limitation is reflected in rates that insects recycle nutrients. A lower mean N:P of all insect excretion rates in Garden provides evidence for an ecosystem-scale effect, though the differences in N:P of excretion rates by individual taxa between streams did not support the hypothesis. Attributing excretion rates to actual insect densities in three years reveals that natural-occurring fluctuations in excretion rates can operate on the same magnitude as fluctuations in abundances and causes steep differences in nutrient conversion between streams. Lastly, I found that since these streams support immense insect diversity, they receive excretion-derived N and P from taxa in many different functional feeding groups, which illustrates ecosystem resilience and uniqueness.

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Date Created
  • 2016-05

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The effects of non-native and native anuran tadpoles on aquatic ecosystem processes

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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

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.

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Date Created
  • 2015