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Ecology. 2008 Mar;89(3):647-59.

Comparing resource pulses in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

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Department of Biology, Texas State University, Aquatic Station, San Marcos, Texas 78666, USA.


Resource pulses affect productivity and dynamics in a diversity of ecosystems, including islands, forests, streams, and lakes. Terrestrial and aquatic systems differ in food web structure and biogeochemistry; thus they may also differ in their responses to resource pulses. However, there has been a limited attempt to compare responses across ecosystem types. Here, we identify similarities and differences in the causes and consequences of resource pulses in terrestrial and aquatic systems. We propose that different patterns of food web and ecosystem structure in terrestrial and aquatic systems lead to different responses to resource pulses. Two predictions emerge from a comparison of resource pulses in the literature: (1) the bottom-up effects of resource pulses should transmit through aquatic food webs faster because of differences in the growth rates, life history, and stoichiometry of organisms in aquatic vs. terrestrial systems, and (2) the impacts of resource pulses should also persist longer in terrestrial systems because of longer generation times, the long-lived nature of many terrestrial resource pulses, and reduced top-down effects of consumers in terrestrial systems compared to aquatic systems. To examine these predictions, we use a case study of a resource pulse that affects both terrestrial and aquatic systems: the synchronous emergence of periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) in eastern North American forests. In general, studies that have examined the effects of periodical cicadas on terrestrial and aquatic systems support the prediction that resource pulses transmit more rapidly in aquatic systems; however, support for the prediction that resource pulse effects persist longer in terrestrial systems is equivocal. We conclude that there is a need to elucidate the indirect effects and long-term implications of resource pulses in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

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