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Loss of Key Riparian Plant SpeciesImpacts Stream Ecosystem Functioning

AuthorsAlonso, Alberto; Pérez, Javier; Monroy, Silvia; López-Rojo, Naiara; Basaguren, Ana; Bosch, Jaime CSIC ORCID ; Boyero, Luz CSIC ORCID
KeywordsLitter decomposition
Non-random species loss
Aquatic hyphomycetes
Net diversity effect
Plant diversity
Issue Date28-Jan-2021
PublisherSpringer Nature
CitationEcosystems (2021)
AbstractLeaf litter of alder (Alnus glutinosa) is a key resource to detrital stream food webs. Due to its high quality and palatability, it is readily colonised by microorganisms and consumed by detritivores, contributing significantly to carbon and nutrient cycling and to ecosystem functioning. Given that this species has declined due to the spread of the pathogen Phytophthora alni, we investigated how its loss would alter leaf litter decomposition and associated stream assemblages of aquatic hyphomycetes and invertebrates, in a field experiment conducted in three streams. We compared litter mixtures containing alder plus three other species (Corylus avellana, Quercus robur and Salix atrocinerea; that is, 4-species treatments) with mixtures that excluded alder (3-species treatments) and all the monocultures (1-species treatments). The loss of alder reduced decomposition rates, despite the existence of an overall negative diversity effect after 3 weeks of exposure (that is, monocultures decomposed faster than mixtures) and no diversity effect after 6 weeks. Aquatic hyphomycete and detritivore assemblage structure in the mixture without alder differed from those of the mixture with alder and the monocultures, and the former had lower fungal sporulation rate and taxon richness. Our results suggest that alder loss from the riparian vegetation can significantly slow down the processing of organic matter in streams and produce shifts in stream assemblages, with potential consequences on overall ecosystem functioning. We highlight the importance of assessing the ecological consequences of losing single species, particularly those especially vulnerable to stressors, to complement the multiple studies that have assessed the effects of random species loss.
Publisher version (URL)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10021-020-00592-7
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