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Salmon carcasses alter leaf litter species diversity effects on in-stream decomposition

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Marine-derived nutrients from salmon carcasses and leaf litter inputs from riparian vegetation may interactively support stream biodiversity and ecosystem functioning through enhanced resource heterogeneity. Using a full-factorial design of single- and mixed-species litters, we tested for influences of salmon carcasses on in-stream litter decomposition. Overall, nonadditive (synergistic and antagonistic) effects on decomposition were detected for litter species mixtures, and these effects were explained by litter species composition, but not species richness. In middle to late stages of decay, mixtures of labile (high-quality) litters showed faster than expected mass loss, and recalcitrant (low-quality) litter mixtures showed slower than expected mass loss. The presence or absence of each litter species differentially affected decomposition, but these patterns were stronger when salmon carcasses were available. Across all treatments, the influence of salmon carcasses on decomposition was most pronounced in mid-stages of litter decay, where deceleration of decomposition was likely caused by macroinvertebrates feeding on salmon carcasses and less on litter. Combined, these data demonstrate that salmon carcass inputs to streams can enhance detrital heterogeneity, alter interactions among species in litter mixtures, and influence ecosystem functioning (i.e., decomposition).

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/f2011-082

Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Lab II, 3261, Olympia, WA 98505, USA.

Publication date: August 23, 2011

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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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