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Hilary Wilson - Animal-Plant Interaction

University of North Carolina, Asheville

Effects of Eutrophication and Leaf Litter Diversity on the Biomass Gained by the
Mangrove Gastropod, Melampus coffeus, Indian River Lagoon, Florida

At the interface of land and sea, mangroves are valuable environmentally, economically, and aesthetically.  Mangroves are unique in habituating both marine and terrestrial organisms, yet are highly threatened by and array of anthropogenic causes.  Melampus coffeus (Pulmonata: Ellobidae) is a detritivorous snail found in high densities as adults on the mangrove intertidal forest floor and larvae in adjacent marine systems.  A unique characteristic of M. coffeus is that it feeds on leaf tissues instead of on microbes, which are the typical primary decomposers.  Biomass, larvae, feces, and shredded leaf litter make M. coffeus important to nutrient cycling between marine and mangrove ecosystems.
Although subsequent feed-preference studies with M. coffeus exist, the importance of biodiversity and nutrient enrichment has been understated.  Using long-term fertilization sites we hope to see a trend between litter breakdown efficiencies of the three dominant tree species’ litter collected from fertilized and control areas.  The objectives of this study are to quantify the ecological stoichiometry of and biomass gained by juvenile M. coffeus when fed on diversified mixtures of senescent leaves collected from nitrogen-fertilized and control plots as compared to microbial decomposition alone.  Feces, leachate, and unconsumed leaf litter were collected from the containers to be quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed for nutritive values and to observe what characteristics of the litter composition are limiting to M. coffeus consumption.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates