Plant-herbivore interactions in streams near Mt. St. Helens

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Freshwater Biology



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plant-herbivore interactions, Mt. St. Helens

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1. In four separate field experiments near Mount St Helens (Washington, U.S.A.) during 1986, the grazing effects of two large benthic herbivores, tadpoles of the tailed frog Ascaphus truei and larvae of the caddisfly Dicosmoecus gilvipes, were investigated using streamside channels and in-stream manipulations. In the experimental channels, abundances of periphyton and small benthic invertebrates declined significantly with increasing density of these larger herbivores. 2. In eleven small, high-gradient streams affected to varying degrees by the May 1980 eruption, in-stream platforms were used to reduce grazing by A, truei tadpoles on tile substrates. Single platforms erected in each tributary and compared to grazed controls revealed only minor grazing effects, and no significant differences among streams varying in disturbance intensity (and, consequently, tadpole density). However, results probably were confounded by high variability among streams in factors other than tadpole abundance. 3. Grazing effects were further examined in two unshaded streams with different tadpole densities, using five platforms per stream. In the stream with five tadpoles m−2, grazing reduced periphyton biomass by 98% and chlorophyll a by 82%. In the stream lacking tadpoles, no significant grazing effects were revealed. Low algal abundance on both platforms and controls, and high invertebrate density in that stream (c. 30000m−2) suggests that grazing by small, vagile invertebrates was approximately equivalent to that of tadpoles. 4. The influence of large benthic herbivores on algal and invertebrate communities in streams of Mount St Helens can be important, but reponses vary spatially in relation to stream disturbance history, local environmental factors, and herbivore distributional patterns and abundance

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