Beyond the fish-Daphnia paradigm: testing the potential for Neoplea striola (Hemiptera: Pleidae) to cause a trophic cascade in subtropical ponds [article]

Chase J Rakowski, Mathew A. Leibold
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Trophic cascades, or indirect effects of predators on non-adjacent lower trophic levels, are thought to pervade diverse ecosystems, though they tend to be stronger in aquatic ecosystems. Most research on freshwater trophic cascades focused on temperate lakes where Daphnia tend to dominate the zooplankton community, and these studies identified that Daphnia plays a key role in facilitating trophic cascades by linking fish to algae with strong food web interactions. However, Daphnia are rare or
more » ... sent in most tropical and subtropical lowland freshwaters, and many invertebrate predators have received little attention in food web research despite being common and widespread. Therefore, we aimed to test whether trophic cascades are possible in small warmwater ponds where small invertebrates are the top predators and Daphnia are absent. We collected naturally occurring plankton communities from small fishless water bodies in central Texas and propagated them in replicate pond mesocosms. We removed zooplankton from some mesocosms, left the plankton community intact in others, and added one of two densities of the predaceous insect Neoplea striola to others. Following an incubation period we then compared biomasses of plankton groups to assess food web effects between the trophic levels including whether Neoplea caused a trophic cascade by reducing zooplankton. The zooplankton community became dominated by copepods which prefer large phytoplankton and exhibit a fast escape response. Perhaps due to these qualities of the copepods and perhaps due to slow consumption rates by Neoplea on key grazers, no food web effects were found other than zooplankton marginally reducing large phytoplankton. More research is needed to understand the behavior and ecology of Neoplea, but trophic cascades may generally be weak or absent in subtropical and tropical lowland freshwaters where Daphnia is rare.
doi:10.1101/2021.04.14.439893 fatcat:74dmbdu2cbbvzdos44ednfo6ee