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Retention, breakdown, and biological utilisation of deciduous tree leaves in an estuarine tidal flat of southwestern British Columbia, Canada

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In an estuarine mudflat connected to a mountainous stream, coarse leaf material from deciduous trees was examined for its utilisation by invertebrates, retention, and breakdown rate. Leaves from the stream were deposited in the upper intertidal parts near the stream mouth. Their standing stocks were high in fall (~23.8 g AFDM·m–2) and mostly disappeared by spring. Breakdown rates of red alder leaf packs were higher at subtidal and lower intertidal stations (k = 0.013–0.027·day–1) than at stream channel and upper intertidal stations (k = 0.006–0.009·day–1). Longer contact of leaves with relatively warmer seawater may have enhanced leaf breakdown by microbial activities. In the upper intertidal stations, the decrease in the amount of deposited leaves from fall to spring (k = 0.023–0.039·day–1) was faster than leaf breakdown in the leaf packs, thus physical export was probably significant in the decrease in deposited leaves. Meanwhile, amphipods dominated the invertebrates colonising leaf packs. The invertebrate densities did not significantly differ between natural and polyester leaf packs, suggesting contribution of leaves as a microhabitat rather than a food source. The carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures of amphipods indicated that benthic microalgae were their primary food source regardless of natural or artificial leaf packs.

Nous avons étudié les feuilles décidues de ligneux en termes d’utilisation par les invertébrés, de taux de rétention, et de vitesse de décomposition sur un plateau boueux estuarien connecté à un cours d’eau de montagne. Des feuilles apportées par le cours d’eau se déposent dans la zone intertidale supérieure près de l’embouchure. Leur biomasse est élevée en automne (~23,8 g AFDM·m–2) et réduite à presque rien au printemps. La décomposition des paquets de feuilles d’aulnes rouges est plus rapide sur les stations subtidales et intertidales inférieures (k = 0,013–0,027·jour–1) que dans le chenal du cours d’eau et les stations intertidales supérieures (k = 0,006–0,009·jour–1). Le contact plus prolongé des feuilles avec l’eau de mer relativement chaude pourrait avoir activé la décomposition des feuilles via l’activité microbienne. Sur les stations intertidales supérieures, la réduction de la quantité de feuilles durant l’automne et le printemps (k = 0,023–0,039·jour–1) est plus rapide que la décomposition des feuilles; l’exportation physique joue donc probablement un rôle significatif dans la réduction des feuilles accumulées. Les amphipodes dominent des assemblages d’invertébrés qui colonisent les paquets de feuilles. Les densités d’invertébrés ne diffèrent pas significativement dans les paquets de feuilles naturelles et les paquets de feuilles en polyester, ce qui laisse croire que les feuilles sont utilisé comme un microhabitat plutôt qu’en tant qu’une source de nourriture. La composition en isotopes stables du carbone et de l’azote des amphipodes indiquent que ces animaux utilisent les algues microscopiques comme principale source de nourriture dans les paquets de feuilles naturelles et artificielles.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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