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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 62(10)

Feeding-preference trials confirm unexpected stable isotope analysis results: freshwater macroinvertebrates do consume macrophytes

Anne Watson A C and Leon A. Barmuta B

A School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.
B School of Zoology, University of Tasmania and Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: anne.watson@utas.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(10) 1248-1257 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10298
Submitted: 24 November 2010  Accepted: 7 July 2011   Published: 12 October 2011

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The loss of connectivity in intermittent streams can limit aquatic-invertebrate access to food resources, with different resources available in individual pools. Although leaf litter was abundant in the Macquarie River in Tasmania, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses suggested that aquatic macrophytes were more prevalent in shredding macroinvertebrate diets. We tested this result with two multi-choice trials, which examined the feeding preferences of Atalophlebia albiterminata (Ephemeroptera) and the case-building trichopterans Lectrides varians, Notalina bifaria, Triplectides similis and T. ciuskus ciuskus. We first tested preferences for the dominant benthic leaf species (Acacia mucronata, Eucalyptus amygdalina, E. barberi, E. obliqua and E. viminalis). We hypothesised that macroinvertebrates would preferentially select leaves with lower chemical concentrations. However, there were no strong preferences for conditioned leaves by any invertebrate, although the leaves varied in toughness, tannin, nitrogen and allelochemical content. Second, we examined the preferences for E. amygdalina and E. barberi leaves or the fresh macrophytes Triglochin procerum, Myriophyllum salsugineum and Potamogeton tricarinatus. Macrophytes were preferred over leaves by all invertebrates, with T. procerum significantly preferred over the other macrophytes. This suggests that macrophytes may be undervalued in riverine food webs, and should be included in analyses of food webs using stable isotopes.

Additional keywords: Allochthonous resources, carbon:nitrogen ratios, leaf toughness, mixing models.


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