skip to main content

Title: Experimental nitrogen and phosphorus enrichment stimulates multiple trophic levels of algal and detrital-based food webs: a global meta-analysis from streams and rivers
Anthropogenic increases in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations can strongly influence the structure and function of ecosystems. Even though lotic ecosystems receive cumulative inputs of nutrients applied to and deposited on land, no comprehensive assessment has quantified nutrient‐enrichment effects within streams and rivers. We conducted a meta‐analysis of published studies that experimentally increased concentrations of N and/or P in streams and rivers to examine how enrichment alters ecosystem structure (state: primary producer and consumer biomass and abundance) and function (rate: primary production, leaf breakdown rates, metabolism) at multiple trophic levels (primary producer, microbial heterotroph, primary and secondary consumers, and integrated ecosystem). Our synthesis included 184 studies, 885 experiments, and 3497 biotic responses to nutrient enrichment. We documented widespread increases in organismal biomass and abundance (mean response = +48%) and rates of ecosystem processes (+54%) to enrichment across multiple trophic levels, with no large differences in responses among trophic levels or between autotrophic or heterotrophic food‐web pathways. Responses to nutrient enrichment varied with the nutrient added (N, P, or both) depending on rate versus state variable and experiment type, and were greater in flume and whole‐stream experiments than in experiments using nutrient‐diffusing substrata. Generally, nutrient‐enrichment effects also increased with water more » temperature and light, and decreased under elevated ambient concentrations of inorganic N and/or P. Overall, increased concentrations of N and/or P altered multiple food‐web pathways and trophic levels in lotic ecosystems. Our results indicate that preservation or restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem functions of streams and rivers requires management of nutrient inputs and consideration of multiple trophic pathways. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1655869 1713502
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Biological reviews
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Semi‐arid grasslands on the Mongolian Plateau are expected to experience high inputs of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen in this century. It remains unclear, however, how soil organisms and nutrient cycling are directly affected by N enrichment (i.e., without mediation by plant input to soil) vs. indirectly affected via changes in plant‐related inputs to soils resulting from N enrichment. To test the direct and indirect effects of N enrichment on soil organisms (bacteria, fungi and nematodes) and their associated C and N mineralization, in 2010, we designated two subplots (with plants and without plants) in every plot of a six‐level N‐enrichment experiment established in 1999 in a semi‐arid grassland. In 2014, 4 years after subplots with and without plant were established, N enrichment had substantially altered the soil bacterial, fungal and nematode community structures due to declines in biomass or abundance whether plants had been removed or not. N enrichment also reduced the diversity of these groups (except for fungi) and the soil C mineralization rate and induced a hump‐shaped response of soil N mineralization. As expected, plant removal decreased the biomass or abundance of soil organisms and C and N mineralization rates due to declines in soil substrates or food resources.more »Analyses of plant‐removal‐induced changes (ratios of without‐ to with‐plant subplots) showed that micro‐organisms and C and N mineralization rates were not enhanced as N enrichment increased but that nematodes were enhanced as N enrichment increased, indicating that the effects of plant removal on soil organisms and mineralization depended on trophic level and nutrient status. Surprisingly, there was no statistical interaction between N enrichment and plant removal for most variables, indicating that plant‐related inputs did not qualitatively change the effects of N enrichment on soil organisms or mineralization. Structural equation modelling confirmed that changes in soil communities and mineralization rates were more affected by the direct effects of N enrichment (via soil acidification and increased N availability) than by plant‐related indirect effects. Our results provide insight into how future changes in N deposition and vegetation may modify below‐ground communities and processes in grassland ecosystems.« less
  2. Abstract

    Elevated deposition of atmospheric nitrogen (N) has shifted nutrient availability in terrestrial and aquatic habitats of ecosystems, but rarely are ecosystem processes in those components examined simultaneously. We used a multi-decadal, whole, paired watershed experiment to determine how chronic N enrichment with (NH4)2SO4alters litter decomposition in terrestrial and stream systems. We also used short-term phosphorus (P) enrichment experiments within both watersheds to determine whether chronic N enrichment enhances P limitation of decomposition. Leaves from N-treated and reference watersheds were used in a reciprocal design to parse effects of altered nutrient availability in leaves and in the environment. We found divergent responses of terrestrial and stream decomposition to altered nutrient regimes. Chronic experimental N enrichment increased N and P concentrations in post-abscission leaves which decayed faster than leaves from the reference watershed in the terrestrial environment. Experimental N enrichment also did not induce P limitation of terrestrial decomposition. In contrast, litter decomposition rate in the two streams was not enhanced by elevated N in stream water or by altered leaf chemistry. Instead, chronic experimental N enrichment shifted decomposition in streams from co-limitation to strong P limitation. Microbial respiration and extracellular enzyme production responded to altered nutrient availability in a mannermore »consistent with resource allocation models. Divergent responses of terrestrial and aquatic decomposition to elevated N deposition likely arise from differences in water bioavailability. Our work highlights the value of simultaneously considering ecosystem processes in terrestrial and aquatic systems to understand the consequences of integrated landscape processes operating on large spatial scales.

    « less
  3. Characterizing energy flow and trophic linkages is fundamental to understanding the functioning and resilience of Arctic ecosystems under increasing pressure from climate change and anthropogenic exploitation. We used carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes to examine trophic dynamics and the relative contribution of terrestrial organic matter, water column phytoplankton, and phytobenthos (benthic micro- and macro-autotrophs as well as sea ice algae) to the food webs supporting 45 macroconsumers in three Arctic coastal lagoon ecosystems (Krusenstern, Sisualik, Akulaaq) and the adjacent Kotzebue Sound with varying degrees of connectivity in Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska. A two-source (water column particulate organic matter and benthic sediment organic matter), two-isotope trophic dynamics model informed by a Bayesian isotope mixing model revealed that the Lagoon-Kotzebue Sound coastal ecosystem supported consumers along a trophic position continuum from primary consumers, including amphipods, copepods, and clams to trophic level five predators, such as seastars, piscivorous fishes, seals, and seabirds. The relative contribution of the three primary producer end members, terrestrial organic matter (41 ± 21%), phytoplankton (25 ± 21%), and phytobenthos (34 ± 23%) varied as a function of: 1) consumer foraging ecology and 2) consumer location. Suspension feeders received most of their carbon from food webs based onmore »phytoplankton (49 ± 11%) and terrestrial organic matter (23 ± 5%), whereas herbivores and detritivores received the majority of their carbon from phytobenthos-based food webs, 58 ± 10% and 60 ± 8%, respectively. Omnivores and predators showed more even distributions of resource reliance and greater overall variance among species. Within the invertebrates, the importance of terrestrial organic matter decreased and phytobenthos increased with increasing trophic position. The importance of terrestrial organic matter contribution increased with lagoon proximity to major rivers inputs and isolation from Kotzebue Sound. Several taxa with cultural and subsistence food importance to local communities showed significant reliance (30–90% of baseline carbon) on food chains linked to fresh terrestrial organic matter. Our study indicates that terrestrial-marine linkages are important to the function of Arctic coastal lagoon ecosystems and artisanal fisheries. These linkages are likely to strengthen in the future with regional changes in erosion and runoff associated with climate change and anthropogenic disturbance.« less
  4. Lemon, Katherine P. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Predation structures food webs, influences energy flow, and alters rates and pathways of nutrient cycling through ecosystems, effects that are well documented for macroscopic predators. In the microbial world, predatory bacteria are common, yet little is known about their rates of growth and roles in energy flows through microbial food webs, in part because these are difficult to quantify. Here, we show that growth and carbon uptake were higher in predatory bacteria compared to nonpredatory bacteria, a finding across 15 sites, synthesizing 82 experiments and over 100,000 taxon-specific measurements of element flow into newly synthesized bacterial DNA. Obligate predatory bacteria grew 36% faster and assimilated carbon at rates 211% higher than nonpredatory bacteria. These differences were less pronounced for facultative predators (6% higher growth rates, 17% higher carbon assimilation rates), though high growth and carbon assimilation rates were observed for some facultative predators, such as members of the genera Lysobacter and Cytophaga , both capable of gliding motility and wolf-pack hunting behavior. Added carbon substrates disproportionately stimulated growth of obligate predators, with responses 63% higher than those of nonpredators for the Bdellovibrionales and 81% higher for the Vampirovibrionales , whereas responses of facultative predators to substrate addition were nomore »different from those of nonpredators. This finding supports the ecological theory that higher productivity increases predator control of lower trophic levels. These findings also indicate that the functional significance of bacterial predators increases with energy flow and that predatory bacteria influence element flow through microbial food webs. IMPORTANCE The word “predator” may conjure images of leopards killing and eating impala on the African savannah or of great white sharks attacking elephant seals off the coast of California. But microorganisms are also predators, including bacteria that kill and eat other bacteria. While predatory bacteria have been found in many environments, it has been challenging to document their importance in nature. This study quantified the growth of predatory and nonpredatory bacteria in soils (and one stream) by tracking isotopically labeled substrates into newly synthesized DNA. Predatory bacteria were more active than nonpredators, and obligate predators, such as Bdellovibrionales and Vampirovibrionales , increased in growth rate in response to added substrates at the base of the food chain, strong evidence of trophic control. This work provides quantitative measures of predator activity and suggests that predatory bacteria—along with protists, nematodes, and phages—are active and important in microbial food webs.« less
  5. As terrestrial leaf litter decomposes in rivers, its constituent elements follow multiple pathways. Carbon leached as dissolved organic matter can be quickly taken up by microbes, then respired before it can be transferred to the macroscopic food web. Alternatively, this detrital carbon can be ingested and assimilated by aquatic invertebrates, so it is retained longer in the stream and transferred to higher trophic levels. Microbial growth on litter can affect invertebrates through three pathways, which are not mutually exclusive. First, microbes can facilitate invertebrate feeding, improving food quality by conditioning leaves and making them more palatable for invertebrates. Second, microbes can be prey for invertebrates. Third, microbes can compete with invertebrates for resources bound within litter and may produce compounds that retard carbon and nitrogen fluxes to invertebrates. As litter is broken down into smaller particles, there are many opportunities for its elements to reenter the stream food web. Here, I describe a conceptual framework for evaluating how traits of leaf litter will affect its fate in food webs and ecosystems that is useful for predicting how global change will alter carbon fluxes into and out of streams.