Objectives of this study were to determine whether (1) stream algal biomass was nutrient limited, (2) stream herbivores could reduce algal biomass at different levels of productivity, and (3) a large vertebrate herbivore (Ascaphus truei) affected the abundance of insect grazers under different nutrient supply regimes. To address these objectives, we conducted a 2 × 2 factorial experiment to examine the effects of varying phosphate supply on periphyton biomass, insect grazers, and a tadpole grazer in 12 streamside experimental channels in southwestern Canada. We manipulated presence of tailed frog tadpoles (A. truei Stejneger) and varied nutrient levels using nutrient-diffusing pellets. We monitored periphyton biomass as ash-free dry mass (AFDM), insect grazer abundance, dissolved nutrients (NO3 − N and PO4 − P) in water, and tadpole growth rates over 38 days. Dissolved nitrate and phosphate concentrations were temporally variable, and there were no statistical differences among treatments, but dissolved phosphate levels were 1.7 times greater in nutrient-enriched channels (3.2 µg L−1) than in unenriched channels (1.7 µg L−1). Periphyton AFDM was significantly higher in channels with added nutrients, as was abundance of insect grazers, primarily Chironomidae and Ephemeroptera. Tadpoles in channels with nutrients had growth rates approximately four times higher than tadpoles in controls. Insect grazer abundance in channels with and without added nutrients was lower in the presence of tadpoles, and this reduction was greater in channels with nutrients. In contrast to other studies that have examined the impact of vertebrate herbivores on periphyton, tadpoles had no measurable effect on periphyton biomass. These data indicate periphyton and grazers were resource limited, as added nutrients increased periphyton biomass, as well as abundance (insect grazers) and biomass (tailed frog tadpoles) of herbivores.
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Vol. 2001 • No. 2