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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The influence of stream-derived detritus subsidies on lake benthic community composition and trophic interactions Klemmer, Amanda Jeanne


Cross-ecosystem subsidies are important for the structure and functioning of communities within many ecosystems. Increases in subsidies have been modeled to increase trophic cascade strength within recipient systems, because of the donor-controlled addition of a resource. Streams receive high inputs of detrital subsidies and what is not processed within the system is transported downstream. Therefore, streams that flow into lakes have the potential to provide large amounts of detritus to lakes compared to the transfer of detritus from forested lake edges. I hypothesized that streams would increase detritus standing stocks around stream mouths in lakes, that streams would affect the benthic invertebrate community composition, and that those effects would change with distance from the lake shore. To test this I conducted a survey of detritus standing stocks and benthic invertebrate communities at six stream/lake interface and six forest/lake interface sites within two lakes. I found that streams and distance into lakes affected detritus standing stocks, but the effect was only seen when individual pairings of stream and forest sites were examined. I also found that headwater streams significantly altered invertebrate community composition in the lake littoral zone, even up to a distance of 27 meters into the lakes, with some taxa only found at stream/lake interfaces. These results suggest that streams alter the amount of basal resources through subsidies and contribute to whole lake biodiversity. My second hypothesis was that increased detritus in lakes would increase trophic cascade strength. To test this hypothesis, I conducted an in-lake cage experiment in which I manipulated detritus standing stocks (5 densities) and presence of a top-predator (trout). I found that increasing subsidies altered strength of trophic cascades. But unexpectedly, low detritus treatments experienced the strongest positive effect on algal biomass. At intermediate detritus levels there was a switch in the indirect effects of predators, and at the highest detritus densities predators had a negative indirect effect on algal biomass. These results provide evidence that along a gradient of detritus subsidies, trophic cascade strength experiences threshold responses in where predators may have strong, but opposite indirect effects on primary production.

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