Title page for ETD etd-01022008-145419

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author McManamay, Ryan Austin
URN etd-01022008-145419
Title The effect of resource stoichiometry on fish and macroinvertebrate nutrient excretion.
Degree Master of Science
Department Biology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Webster, Jackson R. Committee Chair
Dolloff, C. Andrew Committee Member
Valett, H. Maurice Committee Member
  • nutrient cycling
  • imbalance
  • nutrient limitation
Date of Defense 2007-11-27
Availability unrestricted
Consumer-driven nutrient cycling has been shown to be an important process in supplying inorganic nutrients to autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms in aquatic ecosystems. Theory indicates that consumer nutrient excretion is influenced primarily by an organism’s nutrient composition; however, an organism’s diet should also play an important role in nutrient excretion, especially if the consumer is nutrient limited. This study asks the question, how does diet influence nutrient excretion of consumers at different trophic levels? Macroinvertebrates and fish were collected from six streams and nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) excretion were quantified. Epilithon, leaf detritus, and seston (fine particulate organic matter in transport) were collected and analyzed for carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) content in an attempt to qualitatively assess the nutritional status of the diet of primary consumers. Macroinvertebrates were also analyzed for C, N, and P content to assess their nutritional composition in relation to their excretion and also to assess the nutritional composition of the diet of predatory insects and fish. Fish were also analyzed for C, N, and P.

Similar to theoretical predictions, fish and macroinvertebrate P excretion was negatively related to P content and the N:P excretion ratio was negatively related to the body N:P ratio. However, this relationship was driven primarily by two phosphorus rich species, mottled sculpin in the fish and crayfish in the macroinvertebrates. Some relationships did emerge between consumer excretion and diet. For example, hydropsychid caddisflies had the highest macroinvertebrate P excretion, possibly explained by the low N:P of seston. However, shredders, eating on a very low N and P diet of leaf detritus, had very low N and P excretion.

The relationship between consumers, their food, and nutrient excretion is a matter of mass balance. If the food N:P ratio is higher than that of the consumer, then the N:P excretion should be higher than the consumer N:P and the food N:P, especially if organisms are P-limited. However, N:P excretion by macroinvertebrates and fish were very similar despite large differences in diet. The majority of macroinvertebrates and fish had a lower N:P excretion ratio than the predicted N:P of their food, possibly indicating that 1) consumers were either selectively consuming more P-rich foods than the diets that I assigned them or 2) consumers are generally not N or P limited or influenced by the N or P in their diet. Mottled sculpin and crayfish were the only organisms with a higher N:P excretion than their resources and both had a higher %P than the other fish and macroinvertebrates, respectively. High N:P excretion along with high phosphorus content is indicative of P-limitation. Macroinvertebrates and fish, excluding mottled sculpin and crayfish, had a lower N:P excretion and the N:P ratio of the water column. If consumers do play a role in nutrient dynamics, then consumers could alter the relative abundance of nitrogen and phosphorus by supplying more phosphorus. However, the presence of a P-limited organism, such as mottled sclupin or crayfish, could alter the relative abundance of nitrogen and phosphorus by supplying less phosphorus.

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