Fish introductions and light modulate food web fluxes in tropical streams: A whole-ecosystem experimental approach

Sarah M. Collins*, Steven A. Thomas, Thomas Heatherly, Keeley L. MacNeill, Antoine O.H.C. Leduc, Andrés López-Sepulcre, Bradley A. Lamphere, Rana W. El-Sabaawi, David N. Reznick, Catherine M. Pringle, Alexander S. Flecker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Decades of ecological study have demonstrated the importance of top-down and bottom-up controls on food webs, yet few studies within this context have quantified the magnitude of energy and material fluxes at the whole-ecosystem scale. We examined top-down and bottom-up effects on food web fluxes using a field experiment that manipulated the presence of a consumer, the Trinidadian guppy Poecilia reticulata, and the production of basal resources by thinning the riparian forest canopy to increase incident light. To gauge the effects of these reach-scale manipulations on food web fluxes, we used a nitrogen (15N) stable isotope tracer to compare basal resource treatments (thinned canopy vs. control) and consumer treatments (guppy introduction vs. control). The thinned canopy stream had higher primary production than the natural canopy control, leading to increased N fluxes to invertebrates that feed on benthic biofilms (grazers), fine benthic organic matter (collector-gatherers), and organic particles suspended in the water column (filter feeders). Stream reaches with guppies also had higher primary productivity and higher N fluxes to grazers and filter feeders. In contrast, N fluxes to collector-gatherers were reduced in guppy introduction reaches relative to upstream controls. N fluxes to leaf-shredding invertebrates, predatory invertebrates, and the other fish species present (Hart's killifish, Anablepsoides hartii) did not differ across light or guppy treatments, suggesting that effects on detritus-based linkages and upper trophic levels were not as strong. Effect sizes of guppy and canopy treatments on N flux rates were similar for most taxa, though guppy effects were the strongest for filter feeding invertebrates while canopy effects were the strongest for collector-gatherer invertebrates. Combined, these results extend previous knowledge about top-down and bottom-up controls on ecosystems by providing experimental, reach-scale evidence that both pathways can act simultaneously and have equally strong influence on nutrient fluxes from inorganic pools through primary consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3154-3166
Number of pages13
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Neotropics, 15N
  • Nitrogen flux
  • Primary production
  • Reach-scale experiment
  • Stable isotope tracers
  • Stream food web
  • Top-down and bottom-up effects
  • Trinidad guppy
  • Trophic linkages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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