Main content area

Land‐use effects on terrestrial consumers through changed size structure of aquatic insects

Stenroth, Karolina, Polvi, Lina E., Fältström, Emma, Jonsson, Micael
Freshwater biology 2015 v.60 no.1 pp. 136-149
Carabidae, Linyphiidae, Lycosidae, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, agricultural land, aquatic insects, birds, carbon, diet, forests, hydrogen, land use, landscapes, nitrogen, population dynamics, population size, predators, stable isotopes, streams, subsidies
We assessed the influence of agricultural land use on aquatic–terrestrial linkages along streams arising from changes in the emergence of aquatic insects. We expected that terrestrial predators would respond to a change in the abundance and/or the size structure of the emerging aquatic insects by an increase or decrease in population size. We measured the flux of emergent aquatic insects and the abundance of terrestrial invertebrate predators and birds along 10 streams across a forest‐to‐agriculture land‐use gradient. We also performed stable isotope analyses (hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen) of terrestrial invertebrate predators. Small aquatic insects (Nematocera) were most abundant under agricultural land use, whereas larger bodied aquatic insects (Plecoptera and Trichoptera) were more associated with forest land use. Carabid beetles and linyphiid spiders were associated with agricultural streams (where there was a high abundance of small aquatic insects), whereas lycosid spiders and birds were associated with forest streams and a high abundance of large‐sized aquatic insects. The contribution of aquatic insects to the diets of riparian Lycosidae, Linyphiidae and Carabidae was estimated to be 44%, 60% and 43%, respectively, indicating the importance of aquatic subsidies to the terrestrial system. Our results show that agricultural land use in an overall forested landscape can have significant effects on the abundance and diet of terrestrial consumers through its impact on the size structure of the assemblage of emerging insects, rather than the overall magnitude (numbers) of the aquatic subsidy. Hence, our results suggest that the composition, not just quantity, of a cross‐habitat resource may influence the recipient system.