Urban Water Webs

Previous research by Drs. Kevin McCluney and John Sabo in streamside forests in AZ suggested that water was an important currency of species interactions (McCluney and Sabo 2009). They showed that, in the short-term, spiders and crickets consumed moist food to obtain water rather than energy and nutrients (spiders were “drinking” crickets and crickets were “drinking” leaves). If similar dynamics occurred in other places and with other species, animal water stress could influence plant health.

Cities in the eastern US are often hotter and drier than surrounding ecosystems, in part due to large amounts of pavement and other impervious surfaces. Additionally, urban tree health is of serious concern in these areas. Dr. Kevin McCluney is working with Dr. Steve Frank on two projects to better understand how water stress and availability influence species interactions and plant condition in urban systems.

Projects

urban_arthropods2How does arthropod hydration vary across urban gradients in three cities with distinct rainfall and temperatures?

We are sampling arthropods from trees and shrubs at high and low levels of impervious surface in Raleigh, NC, Orlando, FL, and Phoenix, AZ.

Water pillow in urban maple tree.

Water pillow in urban maple tree.

How do changes in water availability alter the arthropod communities and specie interactions in urban trees?

We are supplementing water to trees in a parking lot at NC State centennial campus and tracking changes in arthropod community composition, hydration, and species interactions (including rates of herbivory).