Stream resource gradients drive terrestrial food webs

Stream Resource Gradients Drive Consumption Rates of Supplemental Prey in the Adjacent Riparian Zone

Decades of research have revealed the crucial roles of cross-system energy flows (spatial subsidies) in mediating trophic interactions in recipient systems. Food web theory predicts that the responses of subsidized consumers are a key to understanding the net impacts of spatial subsidies on in situ prey/resources of recipient systems. However, less is known about the factors triggering the cascading biotic interactions across coupled ecosystems.

Here, we quantify how riverine productivity (donor system) mediates terrestrial food web interactions through spatial subsidies to simplified gravel bar communities. Our comparative study in Japan indicated that higher algal biomass in aquatic systems led to increased supplies of emerging aquatic insects, which were associated with greater densities of terrestrial consumers (Carabid beetles) and enhanced consumption rates of supplemental in situ prey on gravel bars.

Our results highlight the potential of donor productivity to drive cascading biotic interactions across coupled ecosystems. Because cross-system energy flows should originate, at least in part, from primary producers of donor systems, our fundamental finding may form the basis of future studies exploring the driving factors of cross-system trophic interactions.

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