Effects of eucalyptus afforestation on leaf litter dynamics and macroinvertebrate community structure of streams in Central Portugal

Research paper by M. Abelho, M. A. S. Graça

Indexed on: 01 May '96Published on: 01 May '96Published in: Hydrobiologia


To test the hypothesis whether afforestation with Eucalyptus globulus affects litter dynamics in streams and the structure of macroinvertebrate aquatic communities, we compared streams flowing through eucalyptus and deciduous forests, paying attention to: (i) litterfall dynamics, (ii) accumulation of organic matter, (iii) processing rates of two dominant leaf species: eucalyptus and chestnut, and (iv) macroinvertebrate community structure. The amount of allochthonous inputs was similar in both vegetation types, but the seasonality of litter inputs differed between eucalyptus and natural deciduous forests. Eucalyptus forest streams accumulated more organic matter than deciduous forest streams. Decomposition of both eucalyptus and chestnut leaf litter was higher in streams flowing through deciduous forests. The eucalyptus forest soils were highly hydrophobic resulting in strong seasonal fluctuations in discharge. In autumn the communities of benthic macroinvertebrates of the two stream types were significantly different. Deciduous forest streams contained higher numbers of invertebrates and more taxa than eucalyptus forest streams. Mixed forest streams (streams flowing through eucalyptus forests but bordered by deciduous vegetation) were intermediate between the two other vegetation types in all studied characteristics (accumulation of benthic organic matter, density and diversity of aquatic invertebrates). These results suggest that monocultures of eucalyptus affect low order stream communities. However, the impact may be attenuated if riparian corridors of original vegetation are kept in plantation forestry.