Decomposition and colonisation by invertebrates of native and exotic leaf material in a small stream in New England (Australia)

Research paper by R. W. J. Pidgeon, S. C. Cairns

Indexed on: 01 Feb '81Published on: 01 Feb '81Published in: Hydrobiologia


In many parts of south-eastern Australia, native riparian vegetation has been cleared and exotic willows planted. In order to evaluate some of the possible effects of this practice, the decomposition and colonisation by invertebrates of the leaves of three native plant species along with those of willow were examined.Decomposition of leaves of the willow Salix babylonica L. and the indigenous macrophyte Myriophyllum propinquum A. Cunn. was much faster than for leaves of the indigenous trees Eucalyptus blakelyi Maiden and Casuarina cunninghamiana Miq. Both macroinvertebrates and current were found to have a significant influence upon decomposition. The pattern of preferential colonisation suggested that plant detritus represented a primary food source for invertebrates and not simply a refuge. Colonisation was found to be a function of the stage of decomposition, regardless of plant species. The lower temporal availability of willow leaves compared to the native evergreen tree leaves appears to be insufficient to enhance the production of the benthic macroinvertebrates.