Leaf traits drive plant diversity effects on litter decomposition and FPOM production in streams

López-Rojo, Naiara, Martínez, Aingeru, Pérez, Javier, Basaguren, Ana, Pozo, Jesús, and Boyero, Luz (2018) Leaf traits drive plant diversity effects on litter decomposition and FPOM production in streams. PLoS ONE, 13 (5). e0198243.

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Biodiversity loss in riparian forests has the potential to alter rates of leaf litter decomposition in stream ecosystems. However, studies have reported the full range of positive, negative and no effects of plant diversity loss on decomposition, and there is currently no explanation for such inconsistent results. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether plant diversity loss affects other ecological processes related to decomposition, such as fine particulate organic matter production or detritivore growth, which precludes a thorough understanding of how detrital stream food webs are impacted by plant diversity loss. We used a microcosm experiment to examine the effects of plant diversity loss on litter decomposition, fine particulate organic matter production, and growth of a dominant leaf-shredding detritivore, using litter mixtures varying in species composition. We hypothesized that plant diversity loss would decrease the rates of all studied processes, but such effects would depend on the leaf traits present in litter mixtures (both their average values and their variability). Our findings partly supported our hypotheses, showing that plant diversity loss had a consistently negative effect on litter decomposition and fine particulate organic matter production (but not on detritivore growth) across litter mixtures, which was mediated by detritivores. Importantly, the magnitude of the diversity effect and the relative importance of different mechanisms underlying this effect (i.e., complementarity vs. selection) varied depending on the species composition of litter mixtures, mainly because of differences in litter nutritional quality and trait variability. Complementarity was prevalent but varied in size, with positive selection effects also occurring in some mixtures. Our results support the notion that loss of riparian plant species is detrimental to key stream ecosystem processes that drive detrital food webs, but that the magnitude of such effects largely depends on the the order of species loss.

Item ID: 54418
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2018 López-Rojo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO), Basque Government (BG)
Projects and Grants: MINECO BIOFUNCTION project CGL2014-52779-P, BG IT302-16
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2018 07:36
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410203 Ecosystem function @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3108 Plant biology > 310899 Plant biology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 100%
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