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Is ecosystem functioning enhanced when habitat complexity increases?: River restoration and the functioning of algal and detrital food webs
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
SLU Uppsala.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Stream restoration is a multi-million dollar business that aims at rehabilitating systems impacted by hydrogeomorphological modifications, such as channelization, and ameliorating physical or ecological degradation caused by catchment-scale impacts, such as agriculture or urbanization. Despite extensive programs aimed at restoring habitat complexity in channelized streams, there is little evidence for a recovery of biological diversity, and functional responses have been little assessed. Notably large-scale habitat restorations have recently been undertaken in a river catchment in northern Sweden, including rehabilitation of large habitat structures (massive boulders, large woody debris) originally removed to facilitate timber floating. Based on a hydrogeomorphological measure of habitat complexity, we characterised variability in habitat complexity across 20 stream reaches in the catchment, including reference, channelised and restored sites. We assessed whether increased habitat complexity following restoration affected retention of organic matter (FPOM), the functional diversity and organisation of the detritivore feeding guild, and two ecosystem processes: algal productivity and litter decomposition. Deposition of FPOM increased along the complexity gradient, as did leaf litter decomposition mediated by invertebrates. The increase in invertebrate-mediated decomposition was associated with shifts in the functional composition of detritivore assemblages, with feeding traits associated with more efficient decomposition more prominent in the restored reaches. There was no change in algal productivity at local scales, but increases in shallow, well- lit habitats favourable for algal growth indicate a possible increase in algal productivity at the stream reach scale. Increases in habitat complexity enhanced functioning within the detritital foodweb at local scales, without any changes in the biodiversity of detritivores. Our findings indicate that aspects of functional diversity and ecosystem functioning may be better than measures of community structure for assessing stream restoration projects.

Keyword [en]
Biodiversity, restoration assessments, functional diversity, functional dispersion, leaf litter decomposition, algal production, FPOM retention and deposition
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-82911OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-82911DiVA: diva2:663892
Available from: 2013-11-13 Created: 2013-11-13 Last updated: 2013-11-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Ecosystem functioning in streams: Disentangling the roles of biodiversity, stoichiometry, and anthropogenic drivers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ecosystem functioning in streams: Disentangling the roles of biodiversity, stoichiometry, and anthropogenic drivers
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

What will happen to ecosystems if species continue to go extinct at the high rates seen today? Although ecosystems are often threatened by a myriad of physical or chemical stressors, recent evidence has suggested that the loss of species may have impacts on the functions and services of ecosystems that equal or exceed other major environmental disturbances. The underlying causes that link species diversity to ecosystem functioning include species niche complementarity, facilitative interactions, or selection effects, which cause process rates to be enhanced in more diverse communities. Interference competition, antagonistic interactions, or negative selection effects may otherwise reduce the efficiency or resource processing in diverse communities. While several of these mechanisms have been investigated in controlled experiments, there is an urgent need to understand how species diversity affects ecosystem functioning in nature, where variability of both biotic and abiotic factors is usually high. Species functional traits provide an important conceptual link between the effects of disturbances on community composition and diversity, and their ultimate outcomes for ecosystem functioning. Within this framework, I investigated relationships between the decomposition of leaf litter, a fundamental ecosystem process in stream ecosystems, and the composition and diversity of functional traits within the detritivore feeding guild. These include traits related to species habitat and resource preferences, phenology, and size. I focused on disentangling the biotic and abiotic drivers, including functional diversity, regulating ecosystem functioning in streams in a series of field experiments that captured real-world environmental gradients. Leaf decomposition rates were assessed using litter-bags of 0.5 and 10 mm opening size which allow the quantification of microbial and invertebrate + microbial contributions, respectively, to litter decomposition. I also used PVC chambers where leaf litter and a fixed number of invertebrate detritivores were enclosed in the field for a set time-period. The chemical characterisation of stream detritivores and leaf litter, by means of their nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon concentration, was used to investigate how stoichiometric imbalance between detritivores and leaf litter may affect consumer growth and resource consumption. I found that the diversity and composition of functional traits within the stream detritivore feeding guild sometimes had effects on ecosystem functioning as strong as those of other major biotic factors (e.g. detritivore density and biomass), and abiotic factors (e.g. habitat complexity and agricultural stressors). However, the occurrence of diversity-functioning relationships was patchy in space and time, highlighting ongoing challenges in predicting the role of diversity a priori. The stoichiometric imbalance between consumers and resource was also identified as an important driver of functioning, affecting consumer growth rates, but not leaf decomposition rates. Overall, these results shed light on the understanding of species functional diversity effect on ecosystems, and indicate that the shifts in the functional diversity and composition of consumer guilds can have important outcomes for the functioning of stream ecosystems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2013. 44 p.
Keyword
detrital food web, functional diversity, stoichiometry, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, recalcitrant carbon, spatial and temporal species distribution, pools and riffles, isotopes, leaf decomposition rates, land use, restoration, habitat complexity
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-82914 (URN)978-91-7459-758-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-12-06, BiA401 i Biologihuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 621-2006-375
Available from: 2013-11-15 Created: 2013-11-13 Last updated: 2013-11-19Bibliographically approved

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