Royal Society Publishing

Shoreline urbanization interrupts allochthonous subsidies to a benthic consumer over a gradient of lake size

Eric R. Larson, Julian D. Olden, Nisikawa Usio


The role of resource subsidies across ecosystem boundaries has emerged as an important concept in contemporary ecology. For lake ecosystems, this has led to interest in quantifying the contribution of terrestrial allochthonous carbon to aquatic secondary production. An inverse relationship between habitat area and the role of allochthonous subsidies has been documented on marine islands and assumed for lakes, yet there have been no tests of this pattern among benthic (lake bottom) consumers. Here, we used carbon stable isotopes to trace terrestrial allochthonous and benthic autochthonous carbon use by the crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus over a gradient of lake area, productivity and urbanization. Consistent with findings from terrestrial islands, habitat size dictated the importance of allochthonous subsidies, as P. leniusculus transitioned from using predominantly terrestrial carbon in small lakes to an increased reliance on autochthonous production in larger lakes. However, shoreline urbanization interacted with this pattern, particularly for small lakes where greater urbanization resulted in reduced use of allochthonous resources. As such, we provide, to our knowledge, the first confirmation of the predicted relationship between habitat size and importance of allochthonous subsidies to lake benthic consumers, but found that urbanization can interfere with this pattern.

  • Received January 22, 2011.
  • Accepted February 15, 2011.
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