Cross-ecosystem linkages and trace metals at the land-water interface

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At low concentrations, trace metals are critical for sustaining life on Earth. However, at high concentrations, they become a global contaminant with particularly strong effects on freshwater communities. These effects can propagate to terrestrial ecosystems in part by altering production and community structure of adult aquatic insect emergence and aquatic insect-mediated metal fluxes to terrestrial insectivores. Here we highlight mechanisms driving effects of trace metals on aquatic organisms in general, aquatic insects specifically, and insectivorous consumers at the land-water interface. Specifically, we focus on how trace metals impact and bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms and communities and how these changes propagate through aquatic food web interactions and insect metamorphosis to alter fluxes of aquatically derived prey and trace metals to terrestrial consumers. Ultimately, trace metals impact food webs at the land-water interface by altering aquatic insect prey composition and availability for aquatic insectivores and by reducing aquatic insect subsidies to terrestrial consumers, and not by increasing exposure to trace metals in prey. Exposure of terrestrial insectivores to trace metals in prey is decoupled from aqueous concentrations due to high rates of metal excretion during insect metamorphosis from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adult. These effects increase reliance of aquatic insectivores on terrestrial insect prey subsidies and/or lead to declines and behavioral changes in terrestrial insectivore populations.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Cross-ecosystem linkages and trace metals at the land-water interface
DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-49480-3_5
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 19 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Contaminants and ecological subsidies
First page 91
Last page 109
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