Experimental manipulations of fish in a Northern California river during summer base flow reveal that they have large effects on predators, herbivores, and plants in river food webs. California roach and juvenile steelhead consume predatory insects and fish fry, which feed on algivorous chironomid larvae. In the presence of fish, filamentous green algae are reduced to low, prostrate webs, infested with chironomids. When the absence of large fish releases smaller predators that suppress chironomids, algal biomass is higher, and tall upright algal turfs become covered with diatoms and cyanobacteria. These manipulations provide evidence that the Hairston, Smith, Slobodkin-Fretwell theory of trophic control, which predicts that plants will be alternately limited by resources or herbivores in food webs with odd and even numbers of trophic levels, has application to river communitics.
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