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Data from: Impacts of nutrient subsidies on salt marsh arthropod food webs: a latitudinal survey

Cite this dataset

Wimp, Gina; Lewis, Danny; Murphy, Shannon (2019). Data from: Impacts of nutrient subsidies on salt marsh arthropod food webs: a latitudinal survey [Dataset]. Dryad.


Anthropogenic nutrient inputs into native ecosystems cause fluctuations in resources that normally limit plant growth, which has important consequences for associated foodwebs. Such inputs from agricultural and urban habitats into nearby natural systems are increasing globally and can be highly variable. Despite the global increase in anthropogenically-derived nutrient inputs into native ecosystems, the consequences of variation in subsidy amount on native plants and their associated foodwebs are poorly known. Salt marshes represent an ideal system to address the differential impacts of nutrient inputs on ecosystem and community dynamics because human development and other anthropogenic activities lead to recurrent introductions of nutrients into these natural systems. Previously, we have found in manipulative experiments that arthropod abundance increases in response to nutrient enrichment, with predators being the trophic group most strongly affected. We conducted a survey of Atlantic coastal Spartina marshes to test whether such local responses are indicative of responses at a landscape level. We examined the most abundant arthropod species associated with Spartina coastal marshes that receive variable amounts of anthropogenic nitrogen, and tested how this response varied across different arthropod functional groups (herbivores, epigeic feeders, and predators). Similar to what we found at a local scale, nutrient subsidies alter the trophic structure of the arthropod assemblage by changing the relative abundances of various feeding groups. Variable responses among predators to nitrogen density could be partly explained by diet breadth (e.g. generalists vs. specialists). Herbivores had a negative response to increasing plant nitrogen density; specialist predators tracked their herbivore prey and thus also responded negatively to nitrogen density. However, generalists were not negatively affected by nitrogen density and indeed some generalist predators responded positively to nitrogen density. Thus, the overall predator-to-herbivore ratio was also positively associated with nitrogen density. Our research helps us to understand how long-term nutrient enrichment of native ecosystems by human activities affects arthropod assemblages and foodweb dynamics.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: NSF-DEB 1026067, NSF-DEB 1026000


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