Freshwater shrimp effects on detrital processing and nutrients in a tropical headwater stream

TitleFreshwater shrimp effects on detrital processing and nutrients in a tropical headwater stream
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsCrowl, AT, McDowell, WH, Covich, A, Johnson, AH
Accession NumberLUQ.124
KeywordsXiphocaris elongata

n this paper, we report on a whole-pool manipulation of leaf litter decomposition in a tropical stream following a hurricane. The study was designed to distinguish how decapod species comprising two functional feeding guilds alter rates and magnitudes of leaf litter processing and nutrient release linking the detrital food web with the overall producer–consumer food web. Streams of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, are dominated numerically by two freshwater shrimp species (Atya lanipes and Xiphocaris elongata). To determine how these shrimp affected detrital processing following large leaf inputs associated with a hurricane, we manipulated the presence or absence of two species of shrimp in six fenced pools of a headwater stream with hurricane levels of Cecropia leaf litter over a 23-d period. The experiment was designed to determine how the two different shrimp affected: (1) the rate and amount of size fractionation of leaf material; (2) the localized nutrient concentrations in the pools; and (3) the rate of particulate export from the pools. Both shrimp species influenced detrital processing, but in fundamentally different ways. Xiphocaris shred intact, large leaves and converted them into fine, medium, and coarse particulates. Through this conversion process Xiphocaris increased the concentration and rate of downstream transport of suspended particulate organic matter. Xiphocaris also significantly increased the concentration of both total dissolved nitrogen and dissolved organic carbon, likely by changing the surface area to volume ratio of organic particles. Atya, a scraper/filter feeder, caused a slight increase in rates of leaf breakdown as compared to controls at the end of the experiment but filtered out fine organic particulates, resulting in less downstream export. Both decapod species affected detrital processing, but in fundamentally different ways, illustrating the potential importance guild diversity may have in altering both particulate and nutrient availability to the rest of the food web. In addition, these results suggest that the presence of both feeding guilds can significantly influence ecosystem responses to severe, large-scale disturbance events.