Eutrophication and loss of riparian shading influence food quality and trophic relation in stream food webs
Jian Zhang, Martin J. Kainz, Xingzhong Wang, Xiang Tan*, Quanfa Zhang
Eutrophication induced by excessive inputs of nutrient is one of the main stressors in aquatic ecosystems. Deforestation in riparian zones alter riparian shading, which together with eutrophication is expected to exert a complex control over stream food webs. We manipulated two levels of riparian shading (open canopy vs. shading canopy) and nutrient supply (ambient vs. nutrient addition) in three headwater streams to investigate the individual and combined effects of eutrophication and loss of riparian shading on carbon sources and nutritional quality of biofilms, and the subsequent trophic effects on macroinvertebrate grazers. Nutrient enrichment increased the autochthonous carbon (i.e., algae especially diatoms) indicated by fatty acid (FA) biomarkers within biofilms and grazers. The nutritional quality indicated by eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) content of biofilms was increased with nutrient enrichment and more so with the combined effect of an increase in riparian shading, consequently leading to an increase in the nutritional quality, density, and biomass of grazers. In particular, the trophic linkages between biofilms and grazers were mainly influenced by EPA concentration in the biofilms, and strengthened with the combined effects of riparian shading and additional nutrients. Our study emphasizes the nutritional significance of EPA for consumers at higher trophic levels and proposes its potential as an indicator for monitoring the health of aquatic ecosystems.