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Trophic relationships: integrating meiofauna into a realistic benthic food web


J. M. Schmid-Araya, School of Biological Sciences, QMWC, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, U.K. E-mail:


  • 1This paper summarises the most important contributions on trophic relationships of lotic meiofauna. In contrast to marine research, the few quantitative studies of the freshwater meiobenthos have shown that these invertebrates not only take up particulate/fine organic matter, but also dissolved organic substances attached to organic particles. In lotic ecosystems, further estimates of grazing rate and bacterial/algal ingestion rate are needed, particularly in situ measurements.
  • 2The effects of macroinvertebrate predators upon meiofauna are still under debate. Depending on the type of experiments (laboratory vs. field) it seems that macrofauna may or may not affect meiofauna. Field samples and analyses of gut contents of larval tanypod chironomids have shown that the impact upon meiofauna was low and larvae were nonselective predators. Predation amounted to 2.2% of the combined prey density and prey consumption averaged 1.3 individuals per predator individual per year.
  • 3Adding taxonomic resolution by including the meiofaunal component within lotic food webs distinctly increases the number of total species and, as a consequence, changes food web statistics. Webs that included meiofauna revealed that these metazoans contributed substantially to the percentage of intermediate species (species with predators and prey). The resolution of dietary analyses of major consumers of macro- and meiobenthos showed that many stream invertebrates feed on meiofauna.
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