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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

A temporal perspective on aquatic subsidy: Bti affects emergence of Chironomidae

Kolbenschlag, Sara; Gerstle, Verena; Eberhardt, Julian; Bollinger, Eric; Schulz, Ralf; Bruehl, Carsten A.; Bundschuh, Mirco


Emerging aquatic insects serve as one link between aquatic and adjacent riparian food webs via the flux of energy and nutrients. These insects provide high-quality subsidy to terrestrial predators. Thus, any disturbance of emergence processes may cascade to higher trophic levels and lead to effects across ecosystem boundaries. One stressor with potential impact on non-target aquatic insects, especially on non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae), is the widely used mosquito control agent Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti). In a field experiment, we investigated emerging insect communities from Bti-treated (three applications, maximum field rate) and control floodplain pond mesocosms (FPMs) over 3.5 months for changes in their composition, diversity as well as the emergence dynamics and the individual weight of emerged aquatic insects over time. Bti treatments altered community compositions over the entire study duration - an effect mainly attributed to an earlier (-10 days) and reduced (-26%) peak in the emergence of Chironomidae, the dominant family (88% of collected individuals). The most reasonable explanation for this significant alteration is less resource competition caused by a decrease in chironomid larval density due to lethal effects of Bti. This is supported by the higher individual weight of Chironomidae emerging from treated FPMs (-21%) during Bti application (April - May). A temporal shift in the emergence dynamics can cause changes in the availability of prey in linked terrestrial ecosystems. Consequently, terrestrial predators may be affected by a lack of appropriate prey leading to bottom-up and topdown effects in terrestrial food webs. This study indicates the importance of a responsible and elaborated use of Bti and additionally, highlights the need to include a temporal perspective in evaluations of stressors in aquaticterrestrial meta-ecosystems.


Aquatic insects; Emergence dynamics; Riparian food web; Aquatic -terrestrial linkage; Mosquito control; Floodplain mesocosms

Published in

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
2023, Volume: 250, article number: 114503

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    Environmental Sciences

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