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Does mixing litter of different qualities alter stream microbial diversity and functioning on individual litter species?

Author: Kominoski, John S.; Hoellein, Timothy J.; Kelly, John J.; Pringle, Catherine M.;

Date: 2009

Source: Oikos

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


We examined effects of leaf litter quality and species mixing on microbial community diversity and litter processing in a forested headwater stream. Single- and mixed-species litter from dominant tree species (Liriodendron tulipifera, Acer rubrum, Quercus prinus, Rhododendron maximum) were incubated in a southern Appalachian headwater stream. Litter carbon-to-nitrogen ratios (C:N), mass loss, microbial respiration, and microbial community diversity were analyzed on individual litter species after incubation. Initial C:N varied widely among individual litter species, and these differences persisted throughout the 50-day incubation period. Litter C:N of the recalcitrant species R. maximum remained higher than that of all other litter species, and C:N of R. maximum and L. tulipifera increased when both species were present together in a mixture. Although mass loss of individual species was generally unaffected by mixing microbial respiration was greater on A. rubrum and Q. prinus litter incubated with R. maximum compared to either species alone. Enhanced resource heterogeneity, which was experimentally achieved by litter mixing low- and higher-quality litter species, resulted in apparent shifts in microbial community diversity on individual litter species. Responses of bacterial and fungal community diversity to litter mixing varied among individual litter species. Our results suggest that changes in tree species composition in riparian forests and subsequent changes in litter resource heterogeneity could alter stream microbial community diversity and function. As bacteria and fungi are important decomposers of plant litter in aquatic ecosystems, resource-dependent changes in microbial communities could alter detrital processing dynamics in streams.


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Kominoski, John S.; Hoellein, Timothy J.; Kelly John J.; Pringle, Catherine M. 2009. Does mixing litter of different qualities alter stream microbial diversity and functioning on individual litter species? Oikos. 118: 457-463. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2008.17222.x


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