Aquatic Sciences

, 81:1 | Cite as

Joint effects of temperature and litter quality on detritivore-mediated breakdown in streams

  • Andrea Landeira-DabarcaEmail author
  • Javier Pérez
  • Manuel A. S. Graça
  • Luz Boyero
Research Article


Global warming causes concomitant changes in several environmental factors that often have synergistic effects on populations and ecosystem processes. We examined how increased water temperature and reduced litter quality affected a leaf-shredding detritivore’s performance and its effect on litter breakdown. Detritivores were exposed in microcosms at two temperatures (10 and 15 °C) and four categories of litter quality (based on nitrogen and condensed tannin concentrations). We hypothesized that (1) high-quality litter mixtures would breakdown faster, improving detritivore performance; (2) differences would occur regardless of which plant species in the mixture were preferentially consumed; and (3) litter quality effects on detritivore-mediated breakdown and performance would be intensified at higher temperatures. Unexpectedly, we found faster breakdown at intermediate litter quality and lower temperature. Additionally, we found cases of detritivore selection and rejection of different resources driven by litter traits other than nitrogen and tannin concentrations. Detritivore performance increased with temperature, regardless of litter quality. Our results support non-additive and unpredictable joint effects of temperature and litter quality, suggesting that these concomitant changes may affect stream functioning.


Shredder Consumption Growth Leaf traits Warming 



We thank the members of the Global Litter Breakdown Experiments (GLoBE) network who helped with leaf collection, Veronica Ferreira for field and laboratory work advice, Igor Morais and Joana Sotaia for the field survey, and Cristina Grela Docal for leaf chemical analyses. The study was funded by start-up funds from the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) and Ikerbasque to LB, the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) strategic project ID/MAR/04292/2013 granted to MARE (Portugal), a research fellowship from Universidade de Vigo to ALD, and Basque Government funds (IT302-16) to Jesús Pozo.

Supplementary material

27_2018_598_MOESM1_ESM.docx (195 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 195 KB)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Animal BiologyUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  3. 3.Stream Ecology Laboratory, Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of the Basque Country, UPV/EHUBilbaoSpain
  4. 4.IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain

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