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Title: Aquatic insects balance growth with future supply of algal food resources

Many consumers depend on the contemporaneous growth of their food resources. For example,Tanytarsus gracilentusmidges feed on algae, and because midge generation time is much longer than that of algae, individual midges benefit not just from the standing stock but also from the growth of algae during their lifespans. This implies that an intermediate consumption rate maximizes midge somatic growth: low consumption rates constrain midge growth because they do not fully utilize the available food, whereas high consumption rates suppress algal biomass growth and consequently limit future food availability. An experiment manipulating midge presence and initial algal abundance showed that midges can suppress algal growth, as measured by changes in algal gross primary production (GPP). We also found a positive relationship between GPP and midge growth. A consumer–resource model fit to the experimental data showed a hump‐shaped relationship between midge consumption rates and their somatic growth. In the model, predicted midge somatic growth rates were only positively associated with GPP when their consumption rate was below the value that optimized midge growth. Therefore, midges did not overexploit algae in the experiment. This work highlights the balance that consumers which depend on contemporaneous resource growth might have to strike between short‐term growth and future food availability, and the benefits for consumers when they ‘manage' their resources well.

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John Wiley and Sons
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National Science Foundation
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