Parmar, Tarn Preet

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Climate change shifts the timing of nutritional flux from aquatic insects

2022, Shipley, J. Ryan, Twining, Cornelia W., Mathieu-Resuge, Margaux, Parmar, Tarn Preet, Kainz, Martin, Martin-Creuzburg, Dominik, Weber, Christine, Winkler, David W., Graham, Catherine H., Matthews, Blake

Climate change can decouple resource supply from consumer demand, with the potential to create phenological mismatches driving negative consequences on fitness. However, the underlying ecological mechanisms of phenological mismatches between consumers and their resources have not been fully explored. Here, we use long-term records of aquatic and terrestrial insect biomass and egg-hatching times of several co-occurring insectivorous species to investigate temporal mismatches between the availability of and demand for nutrients that are essential for offspring development. We found that insects with aquatic larvae reach peak biomass earlier in the season than those with terrestrial larvae and that the relative availability of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFAs) to consumers is almost entirely dependent on the phenology of aquatic insect emergence. This is due to the 4- to 34-fold greater n-3 LCPUFA concentration difference in insects emerging from aquatic as opposed to terrestrial habitats. From a long-sampled site (25 years) undergoing minimal land use conversion, we found that both aquatic and terrestrial insect phenologies have advanced substantially faster than those of insectivorous birds, shifting the timing of peak availability of n-3 LCPUFAs for birds during reproduction. For species that require n-3 LCPUFAs directly from diet, highly nutritious aquatic insects cannot simply be replaced by terrestrial insects, creating nutritional phenological mismatches. Our research findings reveal and highlight the increasing necessity of specifically investigating how nutritional phenology, rather than only overall resource availability, is changing for consumers in response to climate change.