Arthropod food web restoration following removal of an invasive wetland plant.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Entomology, 444 Russell Laboratories, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.
Ecological Applications (Impact Factor: 4.13). 05/2006; 16(2):622-31. DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[0622:AFWRFR]2.0.CO;2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Restoration of habitats impacted by invasive plants is becoming an increasingly important tool in the management of native biodiversity, though most studies do not go beyond monitoring the abundance of particular taxonomic groups, such as the return of native vegetation. Yet, the reestablishment of trophic interactions among organisms in restored habitats is equally important if we are to monitor and understand how ecosystems recover. This study examined whether food web interactions among arthropods (as inferred by abundance of naturally occurring stable isotopes of C [delta13C] and N [delta15N]) were reestablished in the restoration of a coastal Spartina alterniflora salt marsh that had been invaded by Phragmites australis. From patterns of C and N stable isotopes we infer that trophic interactions among arthropods in the native salt marsh habitats are characterized by reliance on the dominant marsh plant Spartina as a basal resource. Herbivores such as delphacid planthoppers and mirid bugs have isotope signatures characteristic of Spartina, and predatory arthropods such as dolicopodid flies and spiders likewise have delta13C and delta15N signatures typical of Spartina-derived resources (approximately -13 per thousand and 10 per thousand, respectively). Stable isotope patterns also suggest that the invasion of Phragmites into salt marshes and displacement of Spartina significantly alter arthropod food web interactions. Arthropods in Phragmites-dominated sites have delta13C isotope values between -18 per thousand and -20 per thousand, suggesting reliance on detritus and/or benthic microalgae as basal resources and not on Phragmites, which has a delta13C approximately -26 per thousand. Since most Phragmites herbivores are either feeding internally or are rare transients from nearby Spartina, these resources do not provide significant prey resources for other arthropod consumers. Rather, predator isotope signatures in the invaded habitats indicate dependence on detritus/algae as basal resources instead of the dominant vegetation. The reestablishment of Spartina after removal of Phragmites, however, not only returned species assemblages typical of reference (uninvaded) Spartina, but stable isotope signatures suggest that the trophic interactions among the arthropods were also similar in reestablished habitats. Specifically, both herbivores and predators showed characteristic Spartina signatures, suggesting the return of the original grazer-based food web structure in the restored habitats.

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