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IS LEAF LITTER A TROPHIC OR HABITAT SUBSIDY IN SMALL MAN-MADE PONDS?

Leaf litter is an important subsidy to aquatic ecosystems. The breakdown of leaf litter is fundamental to nutrient cycling and is an important food resource for aquatic insects. However, it is unknown the degree to which leaves contribute to animal food webs in small ponds. Our research assessed whether the macroinvertebrate community of small man-made ponds use litter as a food source or primarily as habitat. We evaluate the role of leaf litter in an experiment that altered litter palatability while keeping structure constant. Litter bags were created that contained either leaf litter conditioned in the pond, unconditioned leaf litter from the surrounding forest floor, or inedible "leaves" made of paper towels. We incubated the litter bags in a small man-made pond in central Virginia for 4 weeks and quantified the macroinvertebrate abundance and community composition on each subsidy. Comparison of macroinvertebrate community differences among the different subsidy types allow us to assess the relative importance of leaf litter as a trophic or habitat subsidy and develop our understanding of the food webs in man-made ponds.

Naomi Williamson (Primary Presenter/Author), Longwood University, naomi.williamson@live.longwood.edu;


Kenneth Fortino ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Longwood University, fortinok@longwood.edu;