Inputs of terrestrial plant detritus and nutrients play an important role in aquatic food webs, but the importance of terrestrial prey inputs in determining aquatic predator distribution and abundance has been appreciated only recently. I examined the numerical, biomass, and diet responses of a common predator, dragonfly larvae, to experimental reduction of terrestrial arthropod input into ponds. I distributed paired enclosures (n = 7), one with a screen between the land and water (reduced subsidy) and one without a screen (ambient subsidy), near the shoreline of 2 small fishless ponds and sampled each month during the growing season in the southern Appalachian Mountains, Virginia (USA). Screens between water and land reduced the number of terrestrial arthropods that fell into screened enclosures relative to the number that fell into unscreened enclosures and open reference plots by 36%. The δ13C isotopic signatures of dragonfly larvae shifted towards those of aquatic prey in reduced-subsidy enclosures, a result suggesting that dragonflies consumed fewer terrestrial prey when fewer were available (ambient subsidy: 30%, reduced subsidy: 19% of diet). Overall abundance and biomass of dragonfly larvae did not change in response to reduced terrestrial arthropod inputs, despite the fact that enclosures permitted immigration/emigration. These results suggest that terrestrial arthropods can provide resources to aquatic predators in lentic systems, but that their effects on abundance and distribution might be subtle and confounded by in situ factors.
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