Water Stewardship Information Sources

Citation Kominoski, J.S., L.B. Marczak, and J.S. Richardson (2011). Riparian forest composition affects stream litter decomposition despite similar microbial and invertebrate communities. Ecology 92:151-159.
Organization UBC
URL http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/10-0028.1
Abstract/Description or Keywords Cross-boundary flows of energy and nutrients link biodiversity and functioning in adjacent ecosystems. The composition of forest tree species can affect the structure and functioning of stream ecosystems due to physical and chemical attributes, as well as changes in terrestrial resource subsidies. We examined how variation in riparian canopy composition (coniferous, deciduous, mixed) affects adjacent trophic levels (invertebrate and microbial consumers) and decomposition of organic matter in small, coastal rainforest streams in southwestern British Columbia. Breakdown rates of higher-quality red alder (Alnus rubra) litter were faster in streams with a greater percentage of deciduous than coniferous riparian canopy, whereas breakdown rates of lower-quality western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) litter were independent of riparian forest composition. When invertebrates were excluded using fine mesh, breakdown rates of both litter species were an order of magnitude less and were not significantly affected by riparian forest composition. Stream invertebrate and microbial communities were similar among riparian forest composition, with most variation attributed to leaf litter species. Invertebrate taxa richness and shredder biomass were higher in A. rubra litter; however, taxa evenness was greatest for T. heterophylla litter and both litter species in coniferous streams. Microbial community diversity (determined from terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms) was unaffected by riparian forest or litter species. Fungal allele richness was higher than bacterial allele richness, and microbial communities associated with lower-quality T. heterophylla litter had higher diversity (allele uniqueness and richness) than those associated with higher-quality A. rubra litter. Percent variation in breakdown rates was mostly attributed to riparian forest composition in the presence of invertebrates and microbes; however, stream consumer biodiversity at adjacent trophic levels did not explain these patterns. Riparian and stream ecosystems and their biotic communities are linked through exchange and decomposition of detrital resources, and we provide evidence that riparian forest composition affects stream ecosystem catabolism despite similarities in microbial and invertebrate communities.

Keywords: Alnus rubra, biodiversity, coastal rainforest ecosystems, coniferous, deciduous, decomposition, invertebrates, microbial, mixed canopy, stream, Tsuga heterophylla.

Read More: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/10-0028.1
Information Type article
Regional Watershed Coast Region
Sub-watershed if known
Aquifer #
Project status complete
Contact Name John Richardson
Contact Email [email protected]