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Effects of non-native Spartina patens on plant and sediment organic matter carbon incorporation into the local invertebrate community

  • Author(s): Page, Henry M.
  • Lastra, Mariano
  • Rodil, Iván F.
  • Briones, María Jesús
  • Garrido, Josefina
  • et al.
Abstract

The cycling of organic matter through food webs is a fundamental process that may be altered by the invasion of non-indigenous plants. We explored consequences of the invasion of non-indigenous Spartina patens to the composition of soil organic matter (SOM) and to detritivore and herbivore diets in the upper salt marsh within Corrubedo National Park, northwest Spain. We tested for the incorporation of S. patens carbon (C) into SOM and by detritivores and herbivores using stable isotope analysis, focusing primarily on detritivorous enchytraeid oligochaetes and herbivorous insects. Stable isotope results indicated that C derived from S. patens has been incorporated into SOM. Elevated densities of enchytraeids in stands of S. patens, and their incorporation of C derived from this plant, suggested that dense patches of S. patens may facilitate detritivore populations. In contrast, although insect herbivores used S. patens as habitat, there was little isotopic evidence for the widespread incorporation of S. patens-derived C by these consumers. The population and dietary response of enchytraeids to S. patens suggests that S. patens invasion could indirectly influence soil processes and pathways mediated by detritivore activity (e.g., soil respiration rates, nutrient retention and transformation, energy flow). The loss of food resources to insect herbivores alters local food webs. However, insect herbivores may move and feed on native plants elsewhere. As a result, insect populations may be less immediately impacted than soil detritivore populations by S. patens. Our study suggests that the influences of S. patens invasion extend beyond the more obvious changes in native plant abundance, to include differing responses in the cycling of organic matter between detritivore and insect herbivore food web pathways.

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