Ecological studies on the decomposition rate of fish carcasses by benthic organisms in the littoral zone of Lake Constance, Germany
1 University of Constance, Limnological Institute, Box M 659, D-78457 Constance, Germany
2 Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research Helgoland, Kurpromenade, D-27498 Helgoland, Germany
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 10 May 2010
Using field experiments, we investigated the effects of fish carcasses (so called ‘food falls') on benthic fauna. We simulated food falls using freshly killed fish during two different seasons (spring and summer) in the littoral zone of a large, pre-alpine meso-oligotrophic lake in central Europe (Lake Constance, Germany). This study provides evidence that input in the form of fish carcasses may play an important role in nutrient dynamics within this ecosystem. The benthic communities in the vicitinity and underneath the food fall were strongly influenced by the food fall. The results show that this supply of organic matter has a significant influence on the relationships within the communities, which are clearly dominated by bacteria, followed by copepod nauplii, cyclopoid copepods, chironomids, and ostracods. Total decomposition was obtained between days 80 and 68 of the experiments. The food fall had a positively but not significant effect on meiofaunal assemblages in these experiments. Furthermore, the results showed a negative relationship between bacteria and meiofauna abundance, indicating grazing by the meiobenthos on the bacterial community. These findings support other studies that found that the meiofauna exerted a grazing pressure on the microbial community, where this process was important in the decomposition of carcasses. Moreover, this study shows the potential importance of fish carcasses in Lake Constance, where food falls may generate high abundances and diversity of the benthic fauna and support high bacterial activities in this littoral ecosystem.
Key words: Pelagic-benthic coupling / decomposition / meiofauna / bacteria / fish carcasses
© EDP Sciences, 2010