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  1. Abstract

    While climate warming is widely predicted to reduce body size of ectotherms, evidence for this trend is mixed. Body size depends not only on temperature but also on other factors, such as food quality and intraspecific competition. Because temperature trends or other long‐term environmental factors may affect population size and food sources, attributing trends in average body size to temperature requires the separation of potentially confounding effects. We evaluated trends in the body size of the midgeTanytarsus gracilentusand potential drivers (water temperature, population size, and food quality) between 1977 and 2015 at Lake Mývatn, Iceland. Although temperatures increased at Mývatn over this period, there was only a slight (non‐significant) decrease in midge adult body size, contrary to theoretical expectations. Using a state‐space model including multiple predictors, body size was negatively associated with both water temperature and midge population abundance, and it was positively associated with13C enrichment of midges (an indicator of favorable food conditions). The magnitude of these effects were similar, such that simultaneous changes in temperature, abundance, and carbon stable isotopic signature could counteract each other in the long‐term body size trend. Our results illustrate how multiple factors, all of which could be influenced by global change, interact to affect average ectotherm body size.

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  2. Abstract

    Population cycles can be caused by consumer–resource interactions. Confirming the role of consumer–resource interactions, however, can be challenging due to an absence of data for the resource candidate. For example, interactions between midge larvae and benthic algae likely govern the high‐amplitude population fluctuations ofTanytarsus gracilentusin Lake Mývatn, Iceland, but there are no records of benthic resources concurrent with adult midge population counts. Here, we investigate consumer population dynamics using the carbon stable isotope signatures of archivedT. gracilentusspecimens collected from 1977 to 2015, under the assumption that midge δ13C values reflect those of resources they consumed as larvae. We used the time series for population abundance and δ13C to estimate interactions between midges and resources while accounting for measurement error and possible preservation effects on isotope values. Results were consistent with consumer–resource interactions: high δ13C values preceded peaks in the midge population, and δ13C values tended to decline after midges reached high abundance. One interpretation of this dynamic coupling is that midge isotope signatures reflect temporal variation in benthic algal δ13C values, which we expected to mirror primary production. Following from this explanation, high benthic production (enriched δ13C values) would contribute to increased midge abundance, and high midge abundance would result in declining benthic production (depleted δ13C values). An additional and related explanation is that midges deplete benthic algal abundance once they reach peak densities, causing midges to increase their relative reliance on other resources including detritus and associated microorganisms. Such a shift in resource use would be consistent with the subsequent decline in midge δ13C values. Our study adds evidence that midge–resource interactions driveT. gracilentusfluctuations and demonstrates a novel application of stable isotope time‐series data to understand consumer population dynamics.

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  3. Nerenberg, Robert (Ed.)
    Microplastics are ubiquitous contaminants in aquatic habitats globally, and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are point sources of microplastics. Within aquatic habitats microplastics are colonized by microbial biofilms, which can include pathogenic taxa and taxa associated with plastic breakdown. Microplastics enter WWTPs in sewage and exit in sludge or effluent, but the role that WWTPs play in establishing or modifying microplastic bacterial assemblages is unknown. We analyzed microplastics and associated biofilms in raw sewage, effluent water, and sludge from two WWTPs. Both plants retained >99% of influent microplastics in sludge, and sludge microplastics showed higher bacterial species richness and higher abundance of taxa associated with bioflocculation (e.g. Xanthomonas ) than influent microplastics, suggesting that colonization of microplastics within the WWTP may play a role in retention. Microplastics in WWTP effluent included significantly lower abundances of some potentially pathogenic bacterial taxa (e.g. Campylobacteraceae ) compared to influent microplastics; however, other potentially pathogenic taxa (e.g. Acinetobacter ) remained abundant on effluent microplastics, and several taxa linked to plastic breakdown (e.g. Klebsiella , Pseudomonas , and Sphingomonas ) were significantly more abundant on effluent compared to influent microplastics. These results indicate that diverse bacterial assemblages colonize microplastics within sewage and that WWTPs can play a significant role in modifying the microplastic-associated assemblages, which may affect the fate of microplastics within the WWTPs and the environment. 
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  4. Abstract

    Ecosystem engineers have large impacts on the communities in which they live, and these impacts may feed back to populations of engineers themselves. In this study, we assessed the effect of ecosystem engineering on density‐dependent feedbacks for midges in Lake Mývatn, Iceland. The midge larvae reside in the sediment and build silk tubes that provide a substrate for algal growth, thereby elevating benthic primary production. Benthic algae are in turn the primary food source for the midge larvae, setting the stage for the effects of engineering to feed back to the midges themselves. Using a field mesocosm experiment manipulating larval midge densities, we found a generally positive but nonlinear relationship between density and benthic production. Furthermore, adult emergence increased with the primary production per midge larva. By combining these two relationships in a simple model, we found that the positive effect of midges on benthic production weakened negative density dependence at low to intermediate larval densities. However, this benefit disappeared at high densities when midge consumption of primary producers exceeded their positive effects on primary production through ecosystem engineering. Our results illustrate how ecosystem engineering can alter density‐dependent feedbacks for engineer populations.

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  5. 1. Intraspecific competition for food may affect the development, survival, and fecundity of organisms. However, environmental variation in abiotic conditions can influence resource quality and/or quantity, thereby modifying the strength of intraspecific competition.

    2. This study focuses on intraspecific competition amongTanytarsus gracilentus(Chironomidae: Diptera) larvae. In Lake Mývatn, Iceland,T. gracilentusundergoes large population fluctuations, and evidence suggests that these fluctuations are governed by consumer‐resource interactions between the larvae and benthic diatoms. In two experiments, we studied (i) the effects of larval density on individual development and survival, and (ii) how light and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) mediate the strength of intraspecific competition across a density gradient.

    3. Survival declined with increasing larval density in both experiments, although not significantly in the first experiment in which we manipulated only density. In the second experiment, enhancement of either light or phosphorus mitigated the negative effect of larval density on survival. In both experiments, density had a negative effect on individual development. In the first experiment, fewer larvae progressed to the final fourth instar at higher densities. In the second experiment, larvae were smaller in high density treatments, and this effect was most pronounced in the treatments without light or phosphorus supplementation.

    4. These results highlight the potential for environmental factors to influence the strength of density‐dependent competition. Environmental variation that affects resource quantity or quality may influence the overall dynamics of our study organism and other populations whose dynamics are controlled by consumer‐resource relationships.

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  6. Abstract

    Understanding how nutrient limitation affects algal biomass and production is a long‐standing interest in aquatic ecology. Nutrients can influence these whole‐community characteristics through several mechanisms, including shifting community composition. Therefore, incorporating the joint responses of biomass, taxonomic composition, and production of algal communities, and relationships among them, is important for understanding effects of nutrient enrichment.

    In shallow subarctic Lake Mývatn, Iceland, benthic algae compose a majority of whole‐lake primary production, support high secondary production, and influence nutrient cycling. Given the importance of these ecosystem processes, the factors that limit benthic algae have a large effect on the function and dynamics of the Mývatn system.

    In a 33‐day nutrient enrichment experiment conducted in Lake Mývatn, we measured the joint responses of benthic algal biomass, primary production, and composition to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) supplementation. We enriched N and P using nutrient‐diffusing agar overlain by sediment, with three levels of N and P that were crossed in a factorial design.

    We found little evidence of community‐wide nutrient limitation, as chlorophyll‐aconcentrations showed a negligible response to nutrients. Gross primary production (GPP) was unaffected by P and inhibited by N enrichment after 10 days, although the inhibitory effect of N diminished by day 33.

    In contrast to biomass and primary production, community composition was strongly affected by N and marginally affected by P, with some algal groups increasing and others decreasing with enrichment. The taxa with the most negative and positive responses to N enrichment were Fragilariaceae andScenedesmus, respectively.

    The abundances of particular algal groups, based on standardised cell counts, were related toGPPmeasured at the end of the experiment.Oocystiswas negatively associated withGPPbut was unaffected by N or P, while Fragilariaceae andScenedesmuswere positively associated withGPPbut had opposite responses to N. As a result, nutrient‐induced compositional shifts did not alterGPP.

    Overall, our results show that nutrient enrichment can have large effects on algal community composition while having little effect on total biomass and primary production. Our study suggests that nutrient‐driven compositional shifts may not alter the overall ecological function of algal communities if (1) taxa have contrasting responses to nutrient enrichment but have similar effects on ecological processes, and/or (2) taxa that have strong influences on ecological function are not strongly affected by nutrients.

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  7. Abstract

    Pulsed fluxes of organisms across ecosystem boundaries can exert top‐down and bottom‐up effects in recipient food webs, through both direct effects on the subsidized trophic levels and indirect effects on other components of the system. While previous theoretical and empirical studies demonstrate the influence of allochthonous subsidies on bottom‐up and top‐down processes, understanding how these forces act in conjunction is still limited, particularly when an allochthonous resource can simultaneously subsidize multiple trophic levels. Using the Lake Mývatn region in Iceland as an example system of allochthony and its potential effects on multiple trophic levels, we analyzed a mathematical model to evaluate how pulsed subsidies of aquatic insects affect the dynamics of a soil–plant–arthropod food web. We found that the relative balance of top‐down and bottom‐up effects on a given food web compartment was determined by trophic position, subsidy magnitude, and top predators’ ability to exploit the subsidy. For intermediate trophic levels (e.g., detritivores and herbivores), we found that the subsidy could either alleviate or intensify top‐down pressure from the predator. For some parameter combinations, alleviation and intensification occurred sequentially during and after the resource pulse. The total effect of the subsidy on detritivores and herbivores, including top‐down and bottom‐up processes, was determined by the rate at which predator consumption saturated with increasing size of the allochthonous subsidy, with greater saturation leading to increased bottom‐up effects. Our findings illustrate how resource pulses to multiple trophic levels can influence food web dynamics by changing the relative strength of bottom‐up and top‐down effects, with bottom‐up predominating top‐down effects in most scenarios in this subarctic system.

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