Prior hydrologic disturbance affects competition between Aedes mosquitoes via changes in leaf litter: Is the cup half full or half empty?
Allochthonous leaf litter is often the main resource base for invertebrate communities in ephemeral water-filled containers, and detritus quality can be affected by hydrologic conditions. The invasive mosquito Aedes albopictus utilizes container habitats for its development where it competes as larvae for detritus and associated microorganisms with the native Aedes triseriatus. Different hydrologic conditions that containers are exposed to prior to mosquito oviposition affect litter decay and associated water quality. We tested the hypothesis that larval competition between A. albopictus and A. triseriatus is differentially affected by prior hydrologic conditions. Experimental microcosms provisioned with Quercus alba L. litter were subjected to one of three different hydrologic treatments prior to the addition of water and mosquito larvae: dry, flooded, and a wet/dry cycle.
Interspecific competition between A. albopictus and A. triseriatus was mediated by hydrologic treatment, and was strongest in the dry treatment vs. the flooded or wet/dry treatments. Aedes triseriatus estimated rate of population change (λ') was lowest in the dry treatment. Aedes albopictus λ' was unaffected by hydrologic treatment, and was on average always increasing (i.e., > 1). Aedes triseriatus λ' was affected by the interaction of hydrologic treatment with interspecific competition, and was on average declining (i.e., < 1.0), at the highest interspecific densities in the dry treatment. Dry treatment litter had the slowest decay rate and leached the highest concentration of tannin-lignin, but supported more total bacteria than the other treatments. These results suggest that dry conditions negatively impact A. triseriatus population performance and may result in the competitive exclusion of A. triseriatus by A. albopictus, possibly by reducing microbial taxa that Aedes species browse. Changing rainfall patterns with climate change are likely to affect competition between A. triseriatus and A. albopictus, probably enhancing negative competitive effects of A. albopictus on A. triseriatus in areas that experience drought.