|Title||Nutrient loading and grazing by the minnow Phoxinus erythrogaster shift periphyton abundance and stoichiometry in mesocosms|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2011|
|Authors||Kohler, TJ, Murdock, JN, Gido, KB, Dodds, WK|
1. Anthropogenic activities in prairie streams are increasing nutrient inputs and altering stream communities. Understanding the role of large consumers such as fish in regulating periphyton structure and nutritional content is necessary to predict how changing diversity will interact with nutrient enrichment to regulate stream nutrient processing and retention. 2. We characterised the importance of grazing fish on stream nutrient storage and cycling following a simulated flood under different nutrient regimes by crossing six nutrient concentrations with six densities of a grazing minnow (southern redbelly dace, Phoxinus erythrogaster) in large outdoor mesocosms. We measured the biomass and stoichiometry of overstory and understory periphyton layers, the stoichiometry of fish tissue and excretion, and compared fish diet composition with available algal assemblages in pools and riffles to evaluate whether fish were selectively foraging within or among habitats. 3. Model selection indicated nutrient loading and fish density were important to algal composition and periphyton carbon (C): nitrogen (N). Nutrient loading increased algal biomass, favoured diatom growth over green algae and decreased periphyton C : N. Increasing grazer density did not affect biomass and reduced the C : N of overstory, but not understory periphyton. Algal composition of dace diet was correlated with available algae, but there were proportionately more diatoms present in dace guts. We found no correlation between fish egestion/excretion nutrient ratios and nutrient loading or fish density despite varying N content of periphyton. 4. Large grazers and nutrient availability can have a spatially distinct influence at a microhabitat scale on the nutrient status of primary producers in streams.