Fatty acids elucidate sub-Antarctic stream benthic food web dynamics invaded by the North American beaver (Castor canadensis)
Basal resources, Benthic macroinvertebrates, Biological invasion, Exotic species, Lipid analysis, Patagonia, PUFA
Despite being remote, polar and sub-polar regions are increasingly threatened by global ecological change. For instance, South America’s sub-Antarctic forest ecoregion is considered one of the world’s last wilderness areas and a global reference site for pre-Industrial Revolution nutrient cycles. Nonetheless, the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) was introduced to Tierra del Fuego in 1946 and, as an invasive ecosystem engineer, has transformed the ecology of regional watersheds. Beavers’ engineering activities transform forested streams (FS) into beaver ponds (BP), where there is greater light and primary production (allochthonous organic matter) and, consequently, increased basal resource quality. To investigate this, we analyzed algal, diatom, fungal and bacterial fatty acid (FA) biomarkers in three basal resource categories (biofilm, very fine benthic organic matter, coarse benthic organic matter) and benthic consumers from four functional feeding groups (FFG). The amphipod Hyalella spp. was chosen as an indicator species due to its abundance and biomass in both habitats. Hyalella spp. had higher proportions of algal and bacterial FA in BP than FS. In FS, Hyalella spp. (gatherer) and Gigantodax spp. (filterer, Diptera) had greater contributions of higher quality FA (higher in polyunsaturated FA), while Rheochorema magallanicum (predator, Trichoptera) and Meridialaris spp. (scraper, Ephemeroptera) showed lower quality monounsaturated and saturated FA. All FFGs showed evidence of microbial FA and had higher levels of autochthonous FA biomarkers than their food resources. Scrapers had the greatest proportion of autochthonous FA. These data provide new insights into the utilization of basal resources by stream consumers in sub-Antarctic streams and how beavers modify these ecosystems.
Anderson, Christopher B.; Tagliaferro, Marina; Fisk, Aaron; Rosemond, Amy D.; Sanchez, Marisol L.; and Arts, Michael T.. (2020). Fatty acids elucidate sub-Antarctic stream benthic food web dynamics invaded by the North American beaver (Castor canadensis). Polar Biology, 43 (5), 423-433.