Original paper

Crayfish effects on fine particulate organic matter quality and quantity

Montemarano, Justin J.; Kershner, Mark W.; Leff, Laura G.


Coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM), especially leaves, plays a key role in food webs of many streams and can be converted to fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) by specific macroinvertebrate functional groups (i.e., shredders). In this study, we examined crayfish [Orconectes obscurus (Hagen)] effects on FPOM generation from two leaf types, red maple and white oak, that differ in recalcitrance and decomposition rates. Further, we examined potential quality differences between FPOM generated by crayfish via fragmentation and defecation. Crayfish were fed stream-conditioned maple or oak leaves in hanging 1-mm mesh-bottom baskets in aquaria. After12 h, C:N ratios and dry/ash-free dry weights of remaining CPOM, FPOM fragments that fell through the mesh, and crayfish feces (collected using finger cots that encased the crayfish abdomens) were determined. Loss of CPOM attributable to crayfish feeding was higher for maple than oak; fragment FPOM and crayfish feces generation were also higher for maple. Maple CPOM percent organic matter was lower than oak CPOM but feces and fragment FPOM percent organic matter did not differ among leaf species suggesting that crayfish actions homogenize the properties of particulate organic matter. Both C:N ratios and bacterial abundance were also altered by crayfish processing and digestion underscoring potential crayfish effects on FPOM bioavailability. Overall, crayfish altered the ontogeny of the detritus, which may, in turn, affect stream FPOM dynamics.