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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 442:1-9 (2011)  -  DOI:

A stem-boring moth drives detritus production in SW Atlantic marshes

Alejandro D. Canepuccia1,2,*, Diana Montemayor1,2, Jesus Pascual1,2, Juan L. Farina3, Oscar O. Iribarne1,2

1Laboratorio de Ecología, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CC 573 Correo Central, B7600WAG, Mar del Plata, Argentina
2Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina
3Museo de Ciencias Naturales Lorenzo Scaglia, Área Entomología, Mar del Plata, Argentina

ABSTRACT: Boundary habitats are frequently hotspots for the production and flow of organic matter (OM) and exert strong effects on ecological processes in the habitats which they link. Salt marshes, which are boundary habitats occurring between the land and the sea, are important sources of OM for coastal habitats. Primary productivity and tides are among the main causes of OM production and export from salt marshes. By field sampling and experiments we found that the stem-boring moth Haimbachia sp. nov. substantially increases the production of detritus in salt marshes along the SW Atlantic coastline. The larvae of this moth enhance the natural mortality of Spartina alterniflora and S. densiflora by feeding inside the basal and middle portions of the stem tissue. The attacks of the moth larvae produce dead and debilitated stems that are more easily broken and transported by the tides than non-attacked stems. Because the moth-attack frequencies will vary geographically in response to variation in the physical environment, the amount of OM flow between habitats will also vary, resulting in a positive relationship between moth-attack frequencies and OM production on a regional scale. Our field and experimental results show that herbivory by this moth and tidal transport could be the main determinants of the production of Spartina macrodetritus in these marshes. A key finding based on this previously undescribed interaction is that biological interactions (i.e. the effects of herbivores) can change the permeability of boundary habitats by altering the OM flow between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Boundary habitats · Herbivory · Haimbachia sp. nov. · Spartina · Organic-matter flow

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Cite this article as: Canepuccia AD, Montemayor D, Pascual J, Farina JL, Iribarne OO (2011) A stem-boring moth drives detritus production in SW Atlantic marshes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 442:1-9.

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