Competitive displacement alters top-down effects on carbon dioxide saturation in a freshwater ecosystem

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Springer Verlag

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bromeliads, carbon dioxide saturation, multiple-predator effects, interference competition, trophic cascades

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Climate change and invasive species have the potential to alter species diversity, creating novel species interactions. Interspecific competition and facilitation between predators may either enhance or dampen trophic cascades, ultimately influencing total predator effects on communities and biogeochemical cycling of ecosystems. However, previous studies have only investigated the effects of a single predator species on CO2 flux of aquatic ecosystems. In this study, we measured and compared the individual and joint effects of predatory damselfly larvae and diving beetles on total prey biomass, leaf litter processing, and dissolved CO2 concentrations of experimental bromeliad ecosystems. Damselfly larvae created strong trophic cascades that reduced CO2 concentrations by ~46 % relative to no-predator treatments. Conversely, the effects of diving beetles on prey biomass, leaf litter processing, and dissolved CO2 were not statistically different to no-predator treatments. Relative to multiplicative null models, the presence of damselfly larvae and diving beetles together resulted in antagonistic relations that eliminated trophic cascades and top-down influences on CO2 concentrations. Furthermore, we showed that the antagonistic interactions between predators occurred due to a tactile response that culminated in competitive displacement of damselfly larvae. Our results demonstrate that predator identity and predator-predator interactions can influence CO2 concentrations of an aquatic ecosystem. We suggest that predator effects on CO2 fluxes may depend on the particular predator species removed or added to the ecosystem and their interactions with other predators.

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