The influence of invertebrates on the breakdown ofPotamogeton pectinatus L. in a coastal marina (Zandvlei, South Africa)

Research paper by B. A. Byren, B. R. Davies

Indexed on: 01 Jul '86Published on: 01 Jul '86Published in: Hydrobiologia


The influence of invertebrates upon the decomposition ofPotamogeton pectinatus L. in a coastal Marina system was examined over 112 days using litter bags. Invertebrate inclusion bags (2 mm mesh, 5 mm holes) registered a dry mass loss of 1% d−1, while exclusion litter bags (80 µm mesh) produced a 0.4% mass loss d−1 (a 2.5 fold difference). Losses of ash and N from inclusion bags were greater than those from exclusion bags (p < 0.05). There was a three fold difference between the two treatments in the time taken for litter to breakdown to half the initial stock: T1/2 for inclusion bags = 43 d, exclusion bags = 130 d. In both treatments, minerals showed an expected rapid loss, due to leaching, with a subsequent slow increase relative to the dry material remaining. A total of nine invertebrate taxa was recorded from inclusion bags, with a peak biomass of 64 mg g−1 dry massPotamogeton bag−1 reached at 64 days after immersion. Grazing amphipods,Melita zeylanica Stebbing andAustrochiltonia subtenuis (Barnard), numerically dominated the litter bag fauna, whileM. zeylanica and nymphs of the zygopteran predatorIschnura senegalensis (Rambur) formed most of the biomass. Scanning Electron Microscopy indicated heavy grazing of micro-organisms by invertebrates, with major qualitative differences occurring 112 days after immersion. Invertebrates significantly accelerated the rate of litter breakdown through their feeding activities, assisting fragmentation and thus contributing to plant losses and also by increasing the surface area for microbial colonisation and attack.