Surface water linkages regulate trophic interactions in a groundwater food web.
Groundwaters are increasingly viewed as resource- limited ecosystems in which fluxes of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from surface water are effi- ciently mineralized by a consortium of microorgan- isms which are grazed by invertebrates. We tested for the effect of groundwater recharge on resource supply and trophic interactions by measuring phys- ico-chemistry, microbial activity and biomass, structure of bacterial communities and invertebrate density at three sites intensively recharged with surface water. Comparison of measurements made in recharge and control well clusters at each site showed that groundwater recharge significantly increased fluxes of DOC and phosphate, elevated groundwater temperature, and diminished dissolved oxygen (DO). Microbial biomass and activity were significantly higher in recharge well clusters but stimulation of autochthonous microorganisms was not associated with a major shift in bacterial community structure. Invertebrate assemblages were not significantly more abundant in recharge well clusters and did not show any relationship with microbial biomass and activity. Microbial communities were bottom-up regulated by DOC and nutrient fluxes but trophic interactions between microorganisms and invertebrates were apparently limited by environmental stresses, particularly DO depletion and groundwater warming. Hydrological connectivity is a key factor regulating the function of DOC-based groundwater food webs as it influ- ences both resource availability for microorganisms and environmental stresses which affect energy transfer to invertebrates and top-down control on microorganisms.
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