Species' traits and environmental gradients interact to govern primary production in freshwater mussel communities

  • Spooner D
  • Vaughn C
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Abstract

We examined the effect of species identity on ecosystem function across an environmental gradient by manipulating the relative dominance of three freshwater mussel species with divergent thermal preferences in mesocosms across a temperature gradient (15, 25, 35C). We measured a suite of individual performance (oxygen consumption, nutrient excretion) and ecosystem response metrics (community, water column, benthic gross primary production and nutrient concentrations) to determine if species performance across temperatures was governed by 1) physiological responses to temperature, 2) species interactions associated with dominant species, or 3) context-dependent species interactions related to temperature (interaction of 1 and 2). Our results demonstrate that environmental context (temperature) combined with the functional traits of dominant species interactively influence the performance and services provided by other species, and that these shifts can have heightened effects on multiple compartments within an ecosystem. Therefore, in addition to declines in species richness, shifts in community dominance also should be considered when interpreting the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on the structure and functioning of ecosystems.

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Authors

  • Daniel E. Spooner

  • Caryn C. Vaughn

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