Leaf litter identity alters the timing of lotic nutrient dynamics
Robbins, Caleb J.
Matthaues, William J.
Cook, Stephen C.
Housley, Lauren M.
Robinson, Sarah E.
Garbarino, Matt A.
LeBrun, Erick S.
King, Ryan S.
Scholarly/refereed, author accepted manuscript
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1. The effects of resource quality on ecosystems can shift through time based on preferential use and elemental needs of biotic consumers. For example, leaf litter decomposition rates are strongly controlled by initial litter quality, where labile litter is processed and depleted more quickly than recalcitrant litters.2. We examined the effect of this processing continuum on stream nutrient dynamics.We added one of four different litter compositions differing in litter quality (cot ‐tonwood [Populus deltoides], labile; sycamore [Platanus occidentalis], recalcitrant; bur oak [Quercus macrocarpa], recalcitrant; and mixed [equivalent mixture of pre ‐vious three species]) to 12 large (c. 20 m long, with riffle, glide and pool sections) outdoor stream mesocosms to assess the effect of litter species composition on whole‐stream nutrient uptake. Nutrients were dosed once weekly for 8 weeks to measure uptake of NH4–N, NO3–N, and PO4–P. We also measured changes in lit ‐ter C, N, and P content on days 28 and 56 of the study.3. Nutrient uptake rates were highly variable, but occasionally very different among litter treatments (c. 5× between highest and lowest uptake rates by species). Uptake rates were generally greatest in cottonwood (labile) streams early in the study. However, during the last 4 weeks of the study, bur oak streams (recalci ‐trant) took up more nutrients than cottonwood streams, resulting in more cumu‐lative NO3–N uptake in bur oak than in cottonwood streams. Cumulative NO3–N uptake was greater in mixed streams than expected (non‐additive) on two dates of measurement, but was generally additive.4. Changes in litter nutrient content largely corroborated nutrient uptake patterns, suggesting strong N immobilisation early in the study and some N mineralisation later in the study. P was strongly retained by most litters, but especially bur oak. Nutrient content of litter also largely changed additively, suggesting minimal evi ‐dence for non‐additive diversity effects on nutrient source/sink status.5. Our results demonstrate that litter species identity can have whole‐ecosystem effects on stream nutrient dynamics, with important implications for the for fate of nutrients exported downstream. Further, diverse litter assemblages may serve as temporal stabilisers of ecosystem processes, such as nutrient sequestra‐tion, due to microbial nutrient requirements and differential decomposition rates, or the classic litter processing continuum.
Robbins CJ, Matthaeus WJ, Cook SC,et al. Leaf litter identity alters the timing of lotic nutrientdynamics.Freshwater Biol. 2019;64:2247–2259. h t t p s : //d o i .org/10.1111/fwb.13410
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