Reciprocal transplant reveals trade-off of resource quality and predation risk in the field

Oecologia. 2015 Sep;179(1):117-27. doi: 10.1007/s00442-015-3324-4. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Balancing trade-offs between avoiding predators and acquiring food enables animals to maximize fitness. Quantifying their relative contribution to vital rates in nature is challenging because predator abundance and nutrient enrichment are often confounded. We employed a reciprocal transplant study design to separate these confounded effects on growth and reproduction of snails at wetland sites along a gradient of predator threats and phosphorus (P) enrichment associated with a canal. We held snails in mesh bags that allowed the passage of waterborne predator cues and fed them local or transplanted periphyton. Molluscivores were more abundant near the canal, and snails tethered near the canal suffered 33% greater mortality than those tethered far from it (far sites). The greatest difference in snail growth rates was at the far sites where growth on far periphyton was 48% slower than on P-enriched (near canal) periphyton. Close proximity to the canal reduced growth on near periphyton by 21% compared to growth on the same periphyton far from the canal; there was no difference in growth rate on either periphyton type when snails were raised near the canal. Snails laid 81% more egg masses at far sites than at near sites, regardless of periphyton origin. Top-down and bottom-up processes were elevated near the canal, and their effects canceled on growth, but not reproduction. Phenotypic trade-offs such as these may explain why some taxa show little response to nutrient enrichment, compared to others, or that the effects of nutrient enrichment may be context dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Florida
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology
  • Reproduction
  • Risk
  • Snails / growth & development*
  • Snails / physiology*
  • Wetlands


  • Phosphorus