Fish predation regimes modify benthic diatom community structures: Experimental evidence from an in situ mesocosm study

  • R.J. Wasserman
  • T.J.F. Vink
  • T. Dalu
  • P.W. Froneman
Austral Ecology, 2015

Diatoms are important primary producers in shallow water environments. Few studies have assessed the importance of biological interactions in structuring these communities. In the present study, benthic diatom community structure in relation to manipulated food webs was assessed using in situ mesocosms, whereby predator-free environments and environments comprising two different fish species were assessed. Zooplankton abundance, settled algal biomass and the diatom community were monitored over a 12-day period across each of the three trophic scenarios. Differences among treatments over time were observed in zooplankton abundances, particularly copepods. Similarly, the benthic diatom community structure changed significantly over time across the three trophic treatments. However, no differences in total algal biomass were found among treatments. This was likely the result of non-diatom phytoplankton contributions. We propose that the benthic diatom community structure within the mesocosms was influenced by trophic cascades and potentially through direct consumption by the fish. The study highlights that not only are organisms at the base of the food web affected by predators at the top of the food web, but that predator identity is potentially an important consideration for predator–prey interaction outcomes with consequences for multiple trophic levels.

@article{wasserman2015fish,
  title={Fish predation regimes modify benthic diatom community structures: Experimental evidence from an in situ mesocosm study},
  author={Wasserman, RJ and Vink, TJF and Dalu, T and Froneman, PW},
  journal={Austral Ecology},
  volume={40},
  number={7},
  pages={806--815},
  year={2015}
}