Differential resource consumption in leaf litter mixtures by native and non-native amphipods.
Leaf litter processing is an essential ecosystem function in freshwater systems, since much of the carbon and nutrients moving through freshwater food webs come from the surrounding terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, it is important to understand how the species performing this function differ, especially because many native species are being replaced by non-native species in aquatic ecosystems. We used a field experiment to examine leaf consumption rates of two common shredding macroinvertebrates (the native Gammarus fossarum and the non-native Gammarus roeselii). Leaves from three species, varying in resource quality, were added both in leaf monocultures and as a three-species mixture. Biomass-adjusted daily consumption rates were similar between the two amphipod species, and each consumed nitrogen-rich alder leaves faster than oak or beech leaves. However, because adult G. roeselii are approximately twice the size of G. fossarum, this led to systematic, though nonsignificant, differences in consumption rates at the per-capita or population level. Furthermore, we found nuanced effects of decomposer identity on leaf decomposition in mixtures. Only G. roeselii showed increased consumption of the preferred resource (alder) in the mixture, while G. fossarum consumed all leaves at the same proportional rates as in monocultures. This is an important distinction, as most measures of macroinvertebrate leaf shredding are made in the laboratory with only a single leaf resource available. Our results, based on a field experiment which could control the presence of dominant macroinvertebrates while still providing natural, biologically realistic context, suggest that even functionally similar species may subtly shift ecosystem processes.