Streams and rivers are becoming increasingly intermittent in Alpine regions due to the global climate change and related increases of local water abstractions, making it fundamental to investigate the occurrence of supraseasonal drying events and their correlated effects. We aimed to investigate leaf litter decomposition, the C:N ratio of the litter, and changes in associated macroinvertebrate communities in three reaches of the Po River: One upstream, consistently perennial, a perennial mid-reach with high hydrological variability, and an intermittent downstream reach. We placed leaf litter bags of two leaf types—chestnut and oak; both showed comparable decomposition rates, but the remaining litter mass was different and was attributed to the C:N ratio and palatability. Furthermore, (1) in perennial reaches, leaf litter decomposed faster than in the intermittent ones; (2) in intermittent reaches, the C:N ratio showed a decreasing trend in both leaf types, indicating that drying affected the nitrogen consumption, therefore the conditioning phase; (3) associated macroinvertebrate communities were richer and more stable in perennial reaches, where a higher richness and abundance of EPT taxa and shredders was observed. Our results suggest that the variations in the hydrology of mountain streams caused by global climate change could significantly impact on functional processes and biodiversity of benthic communities.

Flow Intermittency Affects Leaf Decomposition and Benthic Consumer Communities of Alpine Streams: A Case Study along the Po River

Gruppuso, Laura
First
;
Doretto, Alberto;Falasco, Elisa;Fenoglio, Stefano;Freppaz, Michele;Benbow, Mark Eric;Bona, Francesca
2022

Abstract

Streams and rivers are becoming increasingly intermittent in Alpine regions due to the global climate change and related increases of local water abstractions, making it fundamental to investigate the occurrence of supraseasonal drying events and their correlated effects. We aimed to investigate leaf litter decomposition, the C:N ratio of the litter, and changes in associated macroinvertebrate communities in three reaches of the Po River: One upstream, consistently perennial, a perennial mid-reach with high hydrological variability, and an intermittent downstream reach. We placed leaf litter bags of two leaf types—chestnut and oak; both showed comparable decomposition rates, but the remaining litter mass was different and was attributed to the C:N ratio and palatability. Furthermore, (1) in perennial reaches, leaf litter decomposed faster than in the intermittent ones; (2) in intermittent reaches, the C:N ratio showed a decreasing trend in both leaf types, indicating that drying affected the nitrogen consumption, therefore the conditioning phase; (3) associated macroinvertebrate communities were richer and more stable in perennial reaches, where a higher richness and abundance of EPT taxa and shredders was observed. Our results suggest that the variations in the hydrology of mountain streams caused by global climate change could significantly impact on functional processes and biodiversity of benthic communities.
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leaf bags, global climate change, dry rivers, benthic community, CPOM decomposition
Gruppuso, Laura; Doretto, Alberto; Falasco, Elisa; Fenoglio, Stefano; Freppaz, Michele; Benbow, Mark Eric; Bona, Francesca
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1833670
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