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


Boyero, L and Pearson, RG and Hui, C and Gessner, MO and Perez, J and Alexandrou, MA and Graca, MAS and Cardinale, BJ and Albarino, RJ and Arunachalam, M and Barmuta, LA and Boulton, AJ and Bruder, A and Callisto, M and Chauvet, E and Death, RG and Dudgeon, D and Encalada, AC and Ferreira, V and Figueroa, R and Flecker, AS and Goncalves, JF and Helson, J and Iwata, T and Jinggut, T and Mathooko, J and Mathuriau, C and M'Erimba, C and Moretti, MS and Pringle, CM and Ramirez, A and Ratnarajah, L and Rincon, J and Yule, CM, Biotic and abiotic variables influencing plant litter breakdown in streams: A global study, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283, (1829) pp. 1-10. ISSN 0962-8452 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.2664


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 47.8 N to 42.8 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 Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:decomposition, latitudinal gradient, climate, litter quality, biodiversity, detritivore shredders
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Freshwater ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management
Objective Field:Fresh, ground and surface water biodiversity
UTAS Author:Barmuta, LA (Associate Professor Leon Barmuta)
UTAS Author:Ratnarajah, L (Ms Lavenia Ratnarajah)
ID Code:111974
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:67
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2016-10-18
Last Modified:2017-11-01

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