Water is essential for life on Earth, yet little is known about how water acts as a trophic currency, a unit of value in determining species interactions in terrestrial food webs. We tested the relative importance of groundwater and surface water in riparian food webs by manipulating their availability in dryland floodplains. Primary consumers (crickets) increased in abundance in response to added surface water and groundwater (contained in moist leaves), and predators (spiders and lizards) increased in abundance in response to added surface water, in spite of the presence of a river, an abundant water source. Moreover, the relative magnitude of organism responses to added water was greatest at the most arid site and lowest at the least arid site, mirroring cricket recruitment, which was greatest at the least arid site and lowest at the most arid site. These results suggest that water may be a key currency in terrestrial dryland food webs, which has important implications for predicting ecosystem responses to human-and climate-related changes in hydrology and precipitation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics