Indexed on: 22 Aug '13Published on: 22 Aug '13Published in: Microbial Ecology
We examined the potential long-term impacts of riparian plant diversity loss on diversity and activity of aquatic microbial decomposers. Microbial assemblages were obtained in a mixed-forest stream by immersion of mesh bags containing three leaf species (alder, oak and eucalyptus), commonly found in riparian corridors of Iberian streams. Simulation of species loss was done in microcosms by including a set of all leaf species, retrieved from the stream, and non-colonized leaves of three, two or one leaf species. Leaves were renewed every month throughout six months, and microbial inoculum was ensured by a set of colonized leaves from the previous month. Microbial diversity, leaf mass loss and fungal biomass were assessed at the second and sixth months after plant species loss. Molecular diversity of fungi and bacteria, as the total number of operational taxonomic units per leaf diversity treatment, decreased with leaf diversity loss. Fungal biomass tended to decrease linearly with leaf species loss on oak and eucalyptus, suggesting more pronounced effects of leaf diversity on lower quality leaves. Decomposition of alder and eucalyptus leaves was affected by leaf species identity, mainly after longer times following diversity loss. Leaf decomposition of alder decreased when mixed with eucalyptus, while decomposition of eucalyptus decreased in mixtures with oak. Results suggest that the effects of leaf diversity on microbial decomposers depended on leaf species number and also on which species were lost from the system, especially after longer times. This may have implications for the management of riparian forests to maintain stream ecosystem functioning.