Trophic transfer from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems: a test of the biogeochemical niche hypothesis

Mireia Bartrons, Jordi Sardans, David Hoekman, Josep Peñuelas

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    10 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2018 The Authors. Matter and energy flow across ecosystem boundaries. Transfers from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems are frequent and have been widely studied, but the flow of matter from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems is less known. Large numbers of midges emerge from some lakes in northern Iceland and fly to land. These lakes differ in their levels of eutrophication due to different intensities of geothermal warming and nutrient inputs. In the context of this material transfer from an aquatic to a terrestrial ecosystem, we investigated the relationships between the deposition of midges and the elemental composition and stoichiometry of organisms in low-productivity terrestrial ecosystems. We analyzed several terrestrial food webs in northeastern Iceland with similar food web compositions of terrestrial arthropods but different inputs of midges and analyzed the stoichiometric composition of the different trophic groups. Elemental composition differed among trophic groups and taxa much more than within each trophic group or taxa across the midge deposition gradient. Specifically, the change in N concentration was significant in plants (up to 70% increase in the site with maximum input) but not in predators, which had a more homeostatic elemental composition. These results thus show (1) a significant movement of matter and nutrients from an aquatic to a terrestrial habitat via the emergence of aquatic insects and the deposition of insect carcasses, (2) a larger impact on the elemental composition of plants than arthropods, and (3) support for the biogeochemical niche hypothesis, which predicts that different species should have a specific elemental composition, stoichiometry, and allocation as a consequence of their particular metabolism, physiology, and structure.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere02338
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


    • N:P
    • aquatic–terrestrial transfer
    • biogeochemical niche
    • food web
    • nitrogen
    • phosphorus
    • stoichiometry


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