Concurrent effects of resource pulse amount, type, and frequency on community and population properties of consumers in detritus-based systems
Episodic resource inputs (i.e., pulses) can affect food web properties and community dynamics, but detailed mechanistic understanding of such effects remain elusive. Natural aquatic microsystems (e.g., tree holes, human-made containers) are colonized by invertebrates that form complex food webs dependent on episodic and sometimes sizeable inputs of allochthonous detritus from adjacent terrestrial environments. We investigated how variation in pulse frequency, amount, and resource type interacted to affect richness, abundance, composition, and population sizes of colonizing invertebrates in water-filled tires and tree hole analogs in a forest habitat. Different container types were used to assess the generality of effects across two environmental contexts. Containers received large infrequent or small frequent pulses of animal or leaf detritus of different cumulative amounts distributed over the same period. Invertebrates were sampled in June and September when cumulative detritus input was equal for the two pulse frequencies. Pulse frequency and detritus type interacted to affect the responses of richness and abundance in both months; pulse frequency alone in June affected the relationship between richness and abundance. Richness and abundance were also greater with more detritus regardless of detritus type. One group, the filter feeders, were most important in driving the response of abundance and richness to pulses, especially in June. This work highlights the potential complex nature of responses of communities and populations to resource pulses and implicates the ability of certain groups to exploit pulses of detrital resources as a key to understanding community-level responses to pulses.