Shredder–tadpole facilitation of leaf litter decomposition in a tropical stream

Iwai, Noriko, Pearson, Richard G., and Alford, Ross A. (2009) Shredder–tadpole facilitation of leaf litter decomposition in a tropical stream. Freshwater Biology, 54 (12). pp. 2573-2580.

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1. Leaf litter decomposition is one of the most important ecosystem processes in streams. Recent studies suggest that facilitation, in which litter is processed by a succession of species with differing abilities and requirements, may be important in making the nutrients bound in litter available to the stream assemblage.

2. We predicted that stream invertebrates that feed on terrestrial leaf litter (shredders) and tadpoles would facilitate leaf litter decomposition by changing the quality of leaf material directly via physical contact or indirectly via nutrient release. We experimentally examined the ability of shredders and tadpoles to break down leaves, independently and together, in artificial streams beside a natural forest stream.

3. The decomposition rate was greater when shredders and tadpoles were together than was expected from rates in single-species treatments, indicating that facilitation occurred. This facilitation operated in one direction only: the rate of leaf breakdown by tadpoles was higher when leaves had been partly processed by shredders, but there was no similar effect when leaves previously occupied by tadpoles were processed by shredders. We did not detect facilitation caused by indirect nutrient release.

4. Shredders may have benefited tadpoles by roughening leaf surfaces, making them easier for the tadpoles to consume and enhancing leaf breakdown in the presence of both taxa. This indicates that the loss of a single species can have impacts on ecosystem functioning that go beyond the loss of its direct contribution.

Item ID: 7894
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2427
Keywords: Anisocentropus kirramus, ecosystem functioning, Litoria genimaculata, species interaction, species richness, tropical biology
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2010 04:53
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060204 Freshwater Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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