Lipid catabolism of invertebrate predator indicates widespread wetland ecosystem degradation

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Animals frequently undergo periods when they accumulate lipid reserves for subsequent energetically expensive activities, such as migration or breeding. During such periods, daily lipid-reserve dynamics (DLD) of sentinel species can quantify how landscape modifications affect function, health, and resilience of ecosystems. Aythya affinis (Eyton 1838; lesser scaup; diving duck) are macroinvertebrate predators; they migrate through an agriculturally dominated landscape in spring where they select wetlands with the greatest food density to refuel and accumulate lipid reserves for subsequent reproduction. We index DLD by measuring plasma-lipid metabolites of female scaup (n = 459) that were refueling at 75 spring migration stopover areas distributed across the upper Midwest, USA. We also indexed DLD for females (n = 44) refueling on a riverine site (Pool 19) south of our upper Midwest study area. We found that mean DLD estimates were significantly (P<0.05) less than zero in all ecophysiographic regions of the upper Midwest, and the greatest negative value was in the Iowa Prairie Pothole region (-31.6). Mean DLD was 16.8 at Pool 19 and was markedly greater than in any region of the upper Midwest. Our results indicate that females catabolized rather than stored lipid reserves throughout the upper Midwest. Moreover, levels of lipid catabolism are alarming, because scaup use the best quality wetlands available within a given stopover area. Accordingly, these results provide evidence of wetland ecosystem degradation across this large agricultural landscape and document affects that are carried-up through several trophic levels. Interestingly, storing of lipids by scaup at Pool 19 likely reflects similar ecosystem perturbations as observed in the upper Midwest because wetland drainage and agricultural runoff nutrifies the riverine habitat that scaup use at Pool 19. Finally, our results underscore how using this novel technique to monitor DLD, of a carefully selected sentinel species, can index ecosystem health at a landscape scale.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Lipid catabolism of invertebrate predator indicates widespread wetland ecosystem degradation
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0016029
Volume 6
Issue 1
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Publisher location San Francisco, CA
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 6 p.; article e16029
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title PLoS ONE
Country United States
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