Date of this Version
Moslemi JM, Snider SB, MacNeill K, Gilliam JF, Flecker AS (2012) Impacts of an Invasive Snail (Tarebia granifera) on Nutrient Cycling in Tropical Streams: The Role of Riparian Deforestation in Trinidad, West Indies. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38806. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038806
Non-native species and habitat degradation are two major catalysts of environmental change and often occur simultaneously. In freshwater systems, degradation of adjacent terrestrial vegetation may facilitate introduced species by altering resource availability. Here we examine how the presence of intact riparian cover influences the impact of an invasive herbivorous snail, Tarebia granifera, on nitrogen (N) cycling in aquatic systems on the island of Trinidad. We quantified snail biomass, growth, and N excretion in locations where riparian vegetation was present or removed to determine how snail demographics and excretion were related to the condition of the riparian zone. In three Neotropical streams, we measured snail biomass and N excretion in open and closed canopy habitats to generate estimates of mass and area-specific N excretion rates. Snail biomass was 2 to 8 times greater and areal N excretion rates ranged from 3 to 9 times greater in open canopy habitats. Snails foraging in open canopy habitat also had access to more abundant food resources and exhibited greater growth and mass-specific N excretion rates. Estimates of ecosystem N demand indicated that snail N excretion in fully closed, partially closed, and open canopy habitats supplied 2%, 11%, and 16% of integrated ecosystem N demand, respectively. We conclude that human-mediated riparian canopy loss can generate hotspots of snail biomass, growth, and N excretion along tropical stream networks, altering the impacts of an invasive snail on the biogeochemical cycling of N.