Leaf breakdown patterns in a NW Italian stream: Effect of leaf type, environmental conditions and patch size

Stefano Fenoglio 1 , Tiziano Bo 1 , Marco Cucco 1  and Giorgio Malacarne 1
  • 1 University of Piemonte Orientale, Di.S.A.V., Via Bellini 25, I-15100, Alessandria, Italy

Abstract

We studied the decomposition process and macroinvertebrate colonisation of leaf packs to determine to what extent leaf consumption and invertebrate abundance depend on the pollution level, season, leaf type and patch size. We exposed 400 leaf packs made of two leaf types, alder and chestnut, at two sites of the Erro River (NW Italy) with different environmental alteration levels. Leaf packs were set out as three patch sizes (alone, or in groups of 6 or 12). A first experiment was carried out in winter and a second in summer. Leaf packs were retrieved after 15, 30, 45 and 60 days of submersion to determine the leaf mass loss and to quantify the associated macroinvertebrates. Natural riverbed invertebrates were collected in the same areas. Patch size, season, leaf type and pollution level significantly affected mass loss. The breakdown process was faster for alder leaves, during summer, at the unpolluted site, and in smaller patches. Leaf type and patch size did not affect macroinvertebrate density and richness, but the highest taxon richness was found in winter and at the unpolluted site. There were more shredders and predators than in the natural riverbed. Our study supports two recent ideas regarding leaf processing in streams: that patch size influences the leaf breakdown rate and that the breakdown rate can be used to evaluate water quality and environmental health.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • [1] Allan, J.D. 1995. Stream ecology. Structure and function of running waters. Chapman & Hall, London, 388 pp.

  • [2] Canhoto, C. & Graça, M.A.S. 1995. Food value of introduced eucalypt leaves for a Mediterranean stream detritivore: Tipula lateralis. Freshwater Biol. 34: 209–214. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.1995.tb00881.x

  • [3] Carlisle, D.M. & Clements, W.H. 2005. Leaf litter breakdown, microbial respiration and shredder production in metal-polluted streams. Freshwater Biol. 50: 380–390. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2004.01323.x

  • [4] Casas, J.J. & Gessner, M.O. 1999. Leaf litter breakdown in a Mediterranean stream characterised by travertine precipitation. Freshwater Biol. 41: 781–793. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.1999.00417.x

  • [5] Clarke, K.D. & Scruton, D.A. 1997. The benthic community of stream riffles in Newfoundland, Canada and its relationship to selected physical and chemical parameters. J. Anim. Ecol. 12: 113–121.

  • [6] Cuffney, T.F., Wallace, J.B. & Lugthart, G.J. 1990. Experimental evidence quantifying the role of benthic invertebrates in organic matter dynamics of headwater streams. Freshwater Biol. 23: 281–299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.1990.tb00272.x

  • [7] Cummins, K.W. 1979. The natural stream ecosystem, pp. 7–24. In: Ward, J.W. & Stanford, J.A. The ecology of regulated streams, Plenum Press, New York.

  • [8] Cummins, K.W., Wilzbach, M.A., Gates, D.M., Perry J.B. & Taliaferro, W.B. 1989. Shredders and riparian vegetation. BioScience 39: 24–30. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1310804

  • [9] Dobson, M., Magana, A., Mathooko, J.M. & Ngdegwa, F.K. 2002. Detritivores in Kenyan highland streams: more evidence for the paucity of shredders in the tropics? Freshwater Biol. 47: 909–919. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.2002.00818.x

  • [10] Fabre, E. & Chauvet, E. 1998. Leaf breakdown along an altitudinal stream gradient. Arch. Hydrobiol. 141: 167–179.

  • [11] Fenoglio, S., Agosta, P., Bo, T. & Cucco, M. 2002. Field experiments on colonization and movements of stream invertebrates in an Apennine river (Visone, NW Italy). Hydrobiologia 474: 125–130. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1016525315671

  • [12] Fenoglio, S., Bo, T. & Cucco, M. 2004a. Small-scale macroinvertebrate distribution in a neotropical rainforest stream. Caribb. J. Sci. 40: 253–257.

  • [13] Fenoglio, S., Bo, T., Gallina, G. & Cucco, M. 2004b. Vertical distribution in the water column of drifting stream macroinvertebrates. J. Freshwater Ecol. 19: 485–492.

  • [14] Fenoglio, S., Bo, T., Agosta P. & Cucco, M. 2005. Mass loss and macroinvertebrate colonisation of fish carcasses in riffles and pools of a NW Italian stream. Hydrobiologia 532: 111–122. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10750-004-9451-2

  • [15] Gauch, H.G. 1982. Multivariate Analysis in Community Ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 298 pp.

  • [16] Gessner, M.O. & Chauvet, E. 2002. A case for using litter breakdown to assess functional stream integrity. Ecol. Appl. 12: 498–510.

  • [17] Gessner, M.O., Chauvet, E. & Dobson, M. 1999. A perspective on leaf litter breakdown in streams. Oikos 85: 377–384.

  • [18] Ghetti, P.F. 1997. Manuale di applicazione Indice Biotico Esteso (I.B.E.), i macroinvertebrati nel controllo della qualitŕ degli ambienti di acque correnti. Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Trento, 222 pp.

  • [19] Giller, P.S. & Malmqvist, B. 1998. The biology of streams and rivers. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 304 pp.

  • [20] Grubaugh, J.W. & Wallace, J.B. 1995. Functional structure and production of the benthic community in a Piedmont river: 1956–1957 and 1991–1992. Limnol. Oceanogr. 40: 490–501. http://dx.doi.org/10.4319/lo.1995.40.3.0490

  • [21] Hieber, M. & Gessner, M.O. 2002. Contribution of stream detritivores, fungi, and bacteria to leaf breakdown based on biomass estimates. Ecology 83: 1026–1038.

  • [22] Irons, J.G., Oswood, M.W. & Bryant, J.P. 1988. Consumption of leaf detritus by a stream shredder: influence of tree species and nutrient status. Hydrobiologia 160: 53–61.

  • [23] Irons, J.G., Oswood, M.W., Stout, R.J. & Pringle, C.M. 1994. Latitudinal patterns in leaf litter breakdown: is temperature really important? Freshwater Biol. 32: 401–411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.1994.tb01135.x

  • [24] Jonsson, M. & Malmqvist, B. 2000. Ecosystem process rate increases with animal species richness: evidence from leaf-eating, aquatic insects. Oikos 89: 519–523. http://dx.doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0706.2000.890311.x

  • [25] Jonsson, M., Malmqvist, B. & Hoffsten, P.O. 2001. Leaf breakdown rates in boreal streams: does shredder species richness matter? Freshwater Biol. 46: 161–171. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.2001.00655.x

  • [26] Kaushik, N.K. & Hynes, H.B.N. 1971. The fate of the dead leaves that fall into streams. Arch. Hydrobiol. 68: 465–515.

  • [27] Maamri, A., Chauvet, E., Chergui, H., Gourbière F. & Pattee, E. 1998a. Microbial dynamics on decaying leaves in a temporary Moroccan river. I — Fungi. Arch. Hydrobiol. 144: 41–59.

  • [28] Maamri, A., Chauvet, E., Chergui, H., Gourbière F. & Pattee, E. 1998b. Microbial dynamics on decaying leaves in a temporary Moroccan river. I — Bacteria. Arch. Hydrobiol. 144: 157–175.

  • [29] Mathuriau, C. & Chauvet, E. 2002. Breakdown of leaf litter in a neotropical stream. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 21: 384–396 http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1468477

  • [30] Merritt, R.W. & Cummins, K.W. 1996. An introduction to the aquatic insects of North America. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, IO, USA, 860 pp.

  • [31] Mulholland, P.J., Elwood, J.W., Newbold, J.D. & Ferren, L.A. 1985. Effect of a leaf-shredding invertebrate on organic matter dynamics and phosphorus spiralling in heterotrophic laboratory streams. Oecologia 66: 199–206.

  • [32] Murphy, J., Giller, P.S. & Horan, M.A. 1998. Spatial scale and the aggregation of stream macroinvertebrates associated with leaf packs. Freshwater Biol. 39: 325–339. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.1998.00284.x

  • [33] Niyogi, D.K., Lewis, W.M. & McKnight, D.M. 2001. Litter breakdown in mountain streams affected by mine drainage: biotic mediation of abiotic controls. Ecol. Appl. 11: 506–516.

  • [34] Pascoal, C., Pinho, M., Cassio, F. & Gomes, P. 2003. Assessing structural and functional ecosystem condition using leaf breakdown: a study in a polluted river. Freshwater Biol. 48: 2033–2044. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.2003.01130.x

  • [35] Pattee, E., Bornard, C. & Mourelatos, S. 1986. La decomposition des feuilles mortes dans le réseau fluvial du Rhone: influence du milieu et principaux agents responsables. Sciences de l’Eau 5: 45–74.

  • [36] Pattee, E., Maamri, A. & Chergui, H. 2000. Leaf litter processing and its agents in a temporary Moroccan river. Verh. Int. Verein. Limnol. 27: 3054–3057

  • [37] Podani, J. 1997. SYN-TAX 5.1 A new version for PC and Macintosh computers. Coenoses 12: 149–152.

  • [38] Power, M.E. & Dietrich, W.E. 2002. Food webs in river networks. Ecol. Res. 17: 451–471. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1703.2002.00503.x

  • [39] Pretty, J.L., Giberson, D.J. & Dobson, M., 2005. Resource dynamics and detritivore production in an acid stream. Freshwater Biol. 50: 578–591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2005.01341.x

  • [40] Richardson, J.S., 1992. Food, microhabitat or both? Macroinvertebrate use of leaf accumulations in a montane stream. Freshwater Biol. 27: 169–176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.1992.tb00531.x

  • [41] Royer, T.V. & Minshall, G.W. 1997. Rapid breakdown of allochthonous and autochthonous plant material in a eutrophic river. Hydrobiologia 344: 81–86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1002902327258

  • [42] Royer, T.V. & Minshall, G.W. 2003. Controls of leaf processing in streams form spatial-scaling and hierarchical perspectives. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 22: 352–358.

  • [43] Sokal, R.R. & Rohlf, F.I. 1969. Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY, 128 pp.

  • [44] Vannote, R.L., Minshall, G.W., Cummins, K.W., Sedell, J.R. & Cushing, C.E. 1980. The River Continuum Concept. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37: 130–137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/f80-017

  • [45] Wallace, J.B., Eggert, S.L., Meyer, J.L. & Webster, J.R. 1997. Multiple trophic levels of a forest stream linked to terrestrial litter inputs. Science 277: 102–104. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.277.5322.102

  • [46] Webster, J.R. & Benfield, E.F. 1986. Vascular plant breakdown in freshwater ecosystems. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 17: 567–594. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.es.17.110186.003031

  • [47] Wilkinson, L. 1992. SYSTAT Version 8.0. Systat Inc. Evanston, Illinois, 1086 pp.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search