As a result of climate change, streams are warming and their runoff has been decreasing in most temperate areas. These changes can affect consumers directly by increasing their metabolic rates and modifying their physiology and indirectly by changing the quality of the resources on which organisms depend. In this study, a common stream detritivore (Echinogammarus berilloni Catta) was reared at two temperatures (15 and 20°C) and fed Populus nigra L. leaves that had been conditioned either in an intermittent or permanent reach to evaluate the effects of resource quality and increased temperatures on detritivore performance, stoichiometry and nutrient cycling. The lower quality (i.e., lower protein, soluble carbohydrates and higher C:P and N:P ratios) of leaves conditioned in pools resulted in compensatory feeding and lower nutrient retention capacity by E. berilloni. This effect was especially marked for phosphorus, which was unexpected based on predictions of ecological stoichiometry. When individuals were fed pool-conditioned leaves at warmer temperatures, their growth rates were higher, but consumers exhibited less efficient assimilation and higher mortality. Furthermore, the shifts to lower C:P ratios and higher lipid concentrations in shredder body tissues suggest that structural molecules such as phospholipids are preserved over other energetic C-rich macromolecules such as carbohydrates. These effects on consumer physiology and metabolism were further translated into feces and excreta nutrient ratios. Overall, our results show that the effects of reduced leaf quality on detritivore nutrient retention were more severe at higher temperatures because the shredders were not able to offset their increased metabolism with increased consumption or more efficient digestion when fed pool-conditioned leaves. Consequently, the synergistic effects of impaired food quality and increased temperatures might not only affect the physiology and survival of detritivores but also extend to other trophic compartments through detritivore-mediated nutrient cycling.
Mas-Martí, E., Romaní, A. M., & Muñoz, I. (2015). Consequences of warming and resource quality on the stoichiometry and nutrient cycling of a stream shredder. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118520