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Are autochthonous foods more important than allochthonous resources to benthic consumers in tropical headwater streams?

Lau, Danny; Leung, Kenneth M. Y.; Dudgeon, David


Increasing evidence suggests that autochthonous foods are the principal basis of consumer production in tropical forest streams, despite the predominance of terrestrial detritus inputs. The relative importance of autochthonous and allochthonous energy for the dominant benthic consumers was investigated in 3 tropical headwater streams with different shading conditions in Hong Kong with a combination of assimilation-based analyses: stoichiometry, C and N stable isotopes, and fatty acid (FA) profiling. The snail Brotia hainanensis (Pachychilidae), shrimps Caridina cantonensis (Atyidae) and Macrobrachium hainanense (Palaemonidae), and their potential basal food sources (leaf litter, fine particulate organic matter [FPOM], periphyton, cyanobacteria, and filamentous algae) were collected in Tai Po Kau Forest Stream (shaded 1), Shing Mun Stream (shaded 2), and Pak Ngau Shek Stream (open) during the 2004 dry season (January and February). All samples were analyzed for C:N ratios, δ13C, and δ15N values. Total FAs were extracted from each sample, and concentrations of 35 important FAs were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). C:N ratios of algal foods were markedly lower than those of terrestrial detritus and similar to those of the test animals at all 3 sites, a result that suggested that autochthonous sources were relatively more nutritious than were allochthonous sources. Autochthonous foods were more 13C and 15N enriched than were allochthonous foods at all sites. The algal sources contributed to 29 to 98% of consumer biomass, generally more than was attributed to the terrestrial sources (2–71%). Consumers also showed distinctive FA profiles indicating consumption of autochthonous foods, especially periphytic diatoms and cyanobacteria, as revealed by the elevated concentrations of FA biomarkers such as palmitoleic (16:1[cis-9]) and eicosapentaenoic acids (20:5[all cis-5,8,11,14,17]) in the consumers, periphyton, and cyanobacteria. Our results suggest that autochthonous resources are possibly more important than allochthonous foods to secondary production in tropical headwater streams.


energy flow, fatty acids, food web, stable isotopes, stoichiometry, trophic level

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Journal of the North American Benthological Society
2009, Volym: 28, nummer: 2, sidor: 426-439

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