• coarse particulate organic matter;
  • fine particulate organic matter;
  • leaf litter breakdown;
  • nitrogen isotopes;
  • river continuum concept;
  • subterranean amphipod


1. The functional feeding group approach has been widely used to describe the community structure of benthic invertebrates in relation to organic matter resources. Based on this functional framework, positive interactions between feeding groups (especially shredders and collector-gatherers) were postulated in the River Continuum Concept. However, relationships with organic matter have been poorly documented for invertebrates living in the hyporheic zone.

2. We hypothesised that the common subterranean amphipod Niphargus rhenorhodanensis would feed on fine particulate organic matter (FPOM), which is more abundant than coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) in hyporheic habitats, and should be favoured by the occurrence of shredders that produce FPOM from CPOM.

3. We used laboratory experiments to quantify leaf litter processing by N. rhenorhodanensis and a common shredder, the surface amphipod Gammarus roeselii. We estimated rates of feeding and assimilation (using nitrogen stable isotopes) of the two species separately and together to reveal any potential shredder–collector facilitation between them.

4. Measured leaf litter mass loss showed that N. rhenorhodanensis did not act as a shredder, unlike G. roeselii. Organic matter dynamics and 15N/14N ratios in tissues of niphargids indicated that N. rhenorhodanensis was a collector-gatherer feeding preferentially on FPOM. We also found a positive influence of the gammarid shredders on the assimilation rate of N. rhenorhodanensis, which fed on FPOM produced by the shredders, supporting the hypothesis of a positive interaction between surface shredders and hyporheic collector-gatherers.