Stonefly predation along a hydraulic gradient: a field test of the harsh—benign hypothesis


Dr B. L. Pcekarsky, Department of Entomology. Cornell University. Ithaca, NY 14853, U.S.A.


SUMMARY. 1. Microhabitat preferences of predatory stoneflies and four prey taxa were assessed by taking benthic samples along a hydraulic gradient in a Black Forest stream in West Germany. Densities of predator and prey species were estimated at twenty-one hydraulic regimes.

2. Enclosures containing the stonefly, Dinocras cephalotes, and control cages with no predators were placed in the substrate at hydraulic regimes favourable and unfavourable to predators. Cages received initial prey communities that were obtained from benthic samples taken at hydraulic regimes matching those intended for each cage.

3. Population densities of the two most numerically important prey taxa, the mayfly. Baetis rhodani, and the Chironomidae, were reduced in the presence of Dinocras, but only when enclosures were placed in the hydraulic regimes favourable to the predator. Thus, predation effects increased as the hydraulic regime became more benign to the predators.

4. Densities of two other prey species rare in the diets of Dinocras (Hydropsyche instabilis and Gammarus fossarum) were generally unaffected by predators regardless of the hydraulic regime.

5. These data provide support for the hypothesis that perception of the abiotic regime as harsh or benign to predators is a good predictor of predator impact on densities of preferred prey species. In harsher abiotic regimes, impact will be low, while impact will be high in benign abiotic regimes.