Riparian vegetation removal alters consumer-resource stoichiometry in an Australian lowland stream

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Abstract

Anthropogenic impacts on stream ecosystems generate changes in nutrient and carbon availability which act as stoichiometric challenges to consumers. We tested the hypothesis that removal of Eucalyptus riparian vegetation alters in-stream resource stoichiometry with flow-on effects for a benthic consumer (the freshwater crayfish, Cherax destructor). Sites with high and low riparian canopy cover were selected on a lowland stream in south-eastern Australia. A reduction in riparian vegetation canopy cover was associated with decreased terrestrial detritus (low nutritional quality; high carbon to nitrogen (C :N) ratio) and increased cover of macrophytes and filamentous algae (high quality; low C :N ratio). This resource-quality shift was associated with a small but significant decrease in C. destructor C :N ratio (molar ratio of muscle tissue). This suggests that the animals are deviating from homeostasis and may be in better condition in the stream pools dominated by in-stream productivity. A significant negative relationship between C. destructor length and C :N ratio was observed, suggesting that resource-quality impacts may differ with age. The present study has shown that riparian loss alters stoichiometric interactions in stream benthic ecosystems, with potential consequences for stream processes such as nutrient cycling. Ecological stoichiometric theory should therefore be further utilised to make predictions of ecological impacts in freshwater ystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Volume63
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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