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Leaf quality influences invertebrate colonization and drift in a temperate rainforest stream

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Changes in riparian forest composition and diversity, such as plantations of exotic species, may alter resource quality, detritivore assemblages, and litter breakdown rates in streams. We hypothesized that different litter resources may influence colonization and drift of invertebrates inhabiting small, temperate rainforest streams in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Leaves of different quality and origin were incubated in stream-side channels to test this hypothesis. The sequence of leaf decomposition rates was as follows: alder > alder + cedar > cedar ≥ eucalyptus. Cedar litter decayed faster when mixed with alder than when alone. Invertebrates colonizing leaf bags were predominantly collector–gatherers and shredders, particularly on alder leaves. Drift density varied over the incubation period and seemed to be controlled by leaf quality, since there were more individuals drifting from channels with alder leaves than from channels with cedar or eucalyptus. However, we observed different species-specific invertebrate responses controlled by leaf traits, particularly by numerically dominant chironomid species. Indeed, invertebrate drift from channels incubated with alder bags was mostly due to pupation and emergence of orthoclad midges, whereas this was not observed in the other channels. This differential response in colonization and drift has the potential to modify the transfer rates of organic matter to higher trophic levels and thus ecosystem functioning.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The University of British Columbia, Department of Forest Sciences, 3041 – 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: University of Vigo, Department of Ecology and Animal Biology, 30310 As Lagoas-Marcosende, Vigo, Spain.

Publication date: October 21, 2012

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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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