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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Subsidy Quality Affects Common Riparian Web-Building Spiders: Consequences of Aquatic Contamination and Food Resource

Pietz, Sebastian; Kolbenschlag, Sara; Roeder, Nina; Roodt, Alexis P.; Steinmetz, Zacharias; Manfrin, Alessandro; Schwenk, Klaus; Schulz, Ralf; Schaefer, Ralf B.; Zubrod, Jochen P.; Bundschuh, Mirco


Anthropogenic stressors can affect the emergence of aquatic insects. These insects link aquatic and adjacent terrestrial food webs, serving as high-quality subsidy to terrestrial consumers, such as spiders. While previous studies have demonstrated that changes in the emergence biomass and timing may propagate across ecosystem boundaries, the physiological consequences of altered subsidy quality for spiders are largely unknown. We used a model food chain to study the potential effects of subsidy quality: Tetragnatha spp. were exclusively fed with emergent Chironomus riparius cultured in the absence or presence of either copper (Cu), Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti), or a mixture of synthetic pesticides paired with two basal resources (Spirulina vs. TetraMin (R)) of differing quality in terms of fatty acid (FA) composition. Basal resources shaped the FA profile of chironomids, whereas their effect on the FA profile of spiders decreased, presumably due to the capacity of both chironomids and spiders to modify (dietary) FA. In contrast, aquatic contaminants had negligible effects on prey FA profiles but reduced the content of physiologically important polyunsaturated FAs, such as 20:4n-6 (arachidonic acid) and 20:5n-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid), in spiders by approximately 30% in Cu and Bti treatments. This may have contributed to the statistically significant decline (40%-50%) in spider growth. The observed effects in spiders are likely related to prey nutritional quality because biomass consumption by spiders was, because of our experimental design, constant. Analyses of additional parameters that describe the nutritional quality for consumers such as proteins, carbohydrates, and the retention of contaminants may shed further light on the underlying mechanisms. Our results highlight that aquatic contaminants can affect the physiology of riparian spiders, likely by altering subsidy quality, with potential implications for terrestrial food webs. (c) 2023 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC.


Fatty acids; Emergent aquatic insects; Tetragnatha; Aquatic-terrestrial linkage; Pesticides; Copper; Bacillus thuringiensis var; israelensis

Published in

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
2023, Volume: 42, number: 6, pages: 1346-1358 Publisher: WILEY

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

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