Terrestrial organic matter (TOM) constitutes an important source of energy in many aquatic environments (streams, lakes, wetlands). This is the first study to examine the role of TOM in food webs of the rocky intertidal zone. We compared the consumption of red alder leaves (Alnus rubra) to common marine sources of drifting detritus along the southern Oregon coast (Nereocystis luetkeana, Phyllospadix spp., and Fucus gardneri). We used short term (hours to days) and long term (months) feeding experiments to compare the rate of consumption among each plant species during the Spring and Fall of 2014 and 2015. In addition, we quantified the amount of TOM in beach wrack and in the drift of two streams that flowed directly to the rocky intertidal zone. We also measured the food quality of each plant species (C:N and polyphenolic concentrations). On average, the two small streams in this study transported 1,113.6 kg AFDM/m3 of TOM per day during Fall leaf abscission to the rocky intertidal zone. Also, the biomass of terrestrial leaves in beach wrack varied from negligible (2.1 g AFDM) to the dominant source of detritus (60.7 g AFDM) depending on if it was the dominant riparian plant growing along the edges of the shore. Consistent with previous research, N. luetkeana was a high quality food (C:N = 15:1; polyphenolics = 418 mg/ml), whereas F. gardneri (C:N = 22:1; polyphenolics = 8098 mg/ml) was more recalcitrant. Phyllospadix spp. was puzzling because it had low concentrations of polyphenolics (800 mg/ml) but was not consumed. Alnus rubra had a high concentration of structural compounds (C:N = 33:1) and intermediate levels of polyphenolics (3,415 mg/ml after leaching). Both short term and long term experiments showed that the rates of consumption of Spring-shed, green leaves and freshly fallen brown leaves of A. rubra were intermediate between N. luetkeana and the less palatable marine species (F. gardneri and Phyllospadix spp.). Thus, A. rubra was eaten by common intertidal consumers and may constitute an important source of energy between brief inputs of more nutritious marine resources (e.g. N. luetkeana).
College and Department
Life Sciences; Biology
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Fairbanks, Douglas O., "Role of Terrestrial Organic Matter in Food Webs of the Rocky Intertidal Zone" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 6520.
energy flow from terrestrial to marine, terrestrial organic matter, rocky intertidal consumers