Indirect effects of predatory trout on organic matter processing in detritus-based stream food webs


  • Hamish S. Greig,

  • Angus R. McIntosh

H. S. Greig and A. R. McIntosh, School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand (


Indirect effects of predators on basal resources in allochthonous-based food webs are poorly understood. We investigated indirect effects of predatory brown trout (Salmo trutta) on detritus dynamics in southern beech (Nothofagus spp.) forest streams in New Zealand through predation on the obligate detritivore, Zelandopsyche ingens (Trichoptera, Oeconesidae). Trout presence/absence and Z. ingens density were manipulated in flow-through tanks to investigate the lethal and sub-lethal effects of trout on litter processing by Z. ingens. An experiment that allowed trout access to Z. ingens showed trout predation reduced densities of Z. ingens resulting in slower breakdown of coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) and reduced production of fine particulate organic matter (FPOM). A second experiment that prevented trout access to Z. ingens, but allowed the transmission of trout cues, resulted in no change in litter processing rates in the presence of trout. Litter processing rates were higher in high Z. ingens density treatments compared to low density treatments. Thus, trout effects on litter processing were due to reduced Z. ingens densities, not trout-induced modifications to Z. ingens feeding behaviour. Field assays of litter processing rates using artificial leaf packs in natural streams showed significant reductions in CPOM loss in trout streams compared to fishless streams. Z. ingens dominated biomass in fishless stream leaf packs, but a facultative shredder, Olinga feredayi, dominated trout stream leaf packs. Thus, the absence of Z. ingens drove differences in processing rates between trout and fishless streams and the indirect effects of trout on litter processing observed in mesocosms were evident in complex, natural food webs. Overall our study provides evidence that predators can influence resource dynamics in donor-controlled food webs through their effects on consumers.