Variation in the decomposition of Phragmites australis litter in a monomictic lake: the role of gammarids.

H.P. van Dokkum, D.M.E. Slijkerman, L. Rossi, M.L. Constantini

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    A decomposition study has been carried out in Lake Geestmerambacht, a moderately deep (max. ca. 22 m), monomictic slightly brackish lake in The Netherlands. To assess the relative importance of biotic (benthos) and physico-chemical factors, the mass loss rate (K) of reed leaf litter was measured at 10 sites, both in winter and in summer, in the absence ('protected' litter bags) and the presence ('unprotected' litter bags) of invertebrates. The aim was to investigate the variation in mass loss rate within the habitat and between seasons, and the role of the litter-associated invertebrate community. The experiments showed high spatial variation in decomposition rates. The spatial pattern changed with season. In summer, decomposition rates were higher than in winter: 4.4 times in the presence of invertebrates, and 2.6 times in their absence. The exclusion of invertebrates ('protected' litter bags versus 'unprotected' litter bags) led to significantly lower decomposition rates. In particular, the decomposition rate was strongly correlated with the number of gammarids, the dominant taxon in the litter bags, which are well known for their ability to feed on leal litter. The abundance of gammarids was directly correlated to the level of dissolved oxygen and inversely correlated to the effective fetch in summer, when the spatial structure of the decomposition process was evident. Therefore, the results of this study indicate that there are seasonal and spatial differences in the rate of detritus decomposition, most likely due to changes in habitar characteristics that influence the distribution of gammarids, key-species responsible for the first steps of the leaf breakdown in Lake Geestmerambacht. The spatial dependency of the process leads to formation of heterogeneous ecological patches in which the probability of disturbance propagation may vary.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)69-77
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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