Periodical Cicadas as Resource Pulses in North American Forests

Science  26 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5701, pp. 1565-1567
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103114

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Resource pulses are occasional events of ephemeral resource superabundance that occur in many ecosystems. Aboveground consumers in diverse communities often respond strongly to resource pulses, but few studies have investigated the belowground consequences of resource pulses in natural ecosystems. This study shows that resource pulses of 17-year periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) directly increase microbial biomass and nitrogen availability in forest soils, with indirect effects on growth and reproduction in forest plants. These findings suggest that pulses of periodical cicadas create “bottom-up cascades,” resulting in strong and reciprocal links between the aboveground and belowground components of a North American forest ecosystem.

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