1. Few studies have assessed the effects of macroconsumers, such as fishes and shrimps, on detritus and detritivores. 2. We used an underwater electric field to prevent macroconsumers from feeding in and on leaf packs in a lowland stream in Costa Rica and thus to determine their effects on the density of insect detritivores and decay rates of leaves. 3. Exclusion of macroconsumers resulted in significantly higher densities of small invertebrates inhabiting leaf packs. Most of these were collector-gatherers, none were shredders. 4. Despite the increase in invertebrate density, decay rates of leaves were not statistically different. These findings contrast with results from temperate streams showing that increases in the density of invertebrates in leaf packs typically result in an increased rate of decay. 5. Leaf decay rates and invertebrate densities were also compared between leaf packs placed in electric exclusion treatments and those placed in coarse (2 cm) plastic net bags (as used in many previous studies). Our results suggest that using such netting in tropical streams may deter macroconsumers, which can affect insect density and, potentially, decay rates of organic matter.
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