Biotic and abiotic variables influencing plant litter breakdown in streams: a global study

Boyero, Luz, Pearson, Richard G., Hui, Cang, Gessner, Mark, Pérez, Javier, Alexandrou, Markos A., Graça, Manuel A.S., Cardinale, Bradley J., Albariño, Ricardo J., Arunachalam, Muthukumarasamy, Barmuta, Leon A., Boulton, Andrew J., Bruder, Andreas, Callisto, Marcos, Chauvet, Eric, Death, Russell G., Dudgeon, David, Encalada, Andrea C., Ferreira, Verónica, Figueroa, Ricardo, Flecker, Alexander S., Goncalves, José F., Helson, Julie, Iwata, Tomoya, Jinggut, Tajang, Mathooko, Jude, Mathuriau, Catherine, M'Erimba, Charles, Moretti, Marcelo S., Pringle, Catherine M., Ramírez, Alonso, Ratnarajah, Lavenia, Rincon, José, and Yule, Catherine M. (2016) Biotic and abiotic variables influencing plant litter breakdown in streams: a global study. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: biological sciences, 283 (1829). 20152664. pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

Plant litter breakdown is a key ecological process in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Streams and rivers, in particular, contribute substantially to global carbon fluxes. However, there is little information available on the relative roles of different drivers of plant litter breakdown in fresh waters, particularly at large scales. We present a global-scale study of litter breakdown in streams to compare the roles of biotic, climatic and other environmental factors on breakdown rates. We conducted an experiment in 24 streams encompassing latitudes from 47.88 degrees N to 42.88 degrees S, using litter mixtures of local species differing in quality and phylogenetic diversity (PD), and alder (Alnus glutinosa) to control for variation in litter traits. Our models revealed that breakdown of alder was driven by climate, with some influence of pH, whereas variation in breakdown of litter mixtures was explained mainly by litter quality and PD. Effects of litter quality and PD and stream pH were more positive at higher temperatures, indicating that different mechanisms may operate at different latitudes. These results reflect global variability caused by multiple factors, but unexplained variance points to the need for expanded global-scale comparisons.

Item ID: 45573
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: decomposition, latitudinal gradient, climate, litter quality, biodiversity, detritivore shredders
Funders: National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration (NGS-CRE)
Projects and Grants: NGS-CRE grant no 7980-06
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 07:35
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060309 Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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