Microbial Ecology

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Impaired Leaf Litter Processing in Acidified Streams

Learning from Microbial Enzyme Activities
  • Hugues Clivot
  • Michael Danger
  • Christophe Pagnout
  • Philippe Wagner
  • Philippe Rousselle
  • Pascal Poupin
  • François Guérold
Microbiology of Aquatic Systems


Anthropogenic acidification in headwater streams is known to affect microbial assemblages involved in leaf litter breakdown. Far less is known about its potential effects on microbial enzyme activities. To assess the effects of acidification on microbial activities associated with decaying leaves, a 70-day litter bag experiment was conducted in headwater streams at six sites across an acidification gradient. The results revealed that microbial leaf decomposition was strongly and negatively correlated with total Al concentrations (r = −0.99, p < 0.001) and positively correlated with Ca2+ concentrations (r = 0.94, p = 0.005) and pH (r = 0.93, p = 0.008). Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analyses showed that microbial assemblages differed between non-impacted and impacted sites, whereas fungal biomass associated with decaying leaves was unaffected. The nutrient content of leaf detritus and ecoenzymatic activities of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) acquisition revealed that N acquisition was unaltered, while P acquisition was significantly reduced across the acidification gradient. The P content of leaf litter was negatively correlated with total Al concentrations (r = −0.94, p < 0.01) and positively correlated with decomposition rates (r = 0.95, p < 0.01). This potential P limitation of microbial decomposers in impacted sites was confirmed by the particularly high turnover activity for phosphatase and imbalanced ratios between the ecoenzymatic activities of C and P acquisition. The toxic form of Al has well-known direct effects on aquatic biota under acidic conditions, but in this study, Al was found to also potentially affect microbially mediated leaf processing by interfering with the P cycle. These effects may in turn have repercussions on higher trophic levels and whole ecosystem functioning.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugues Clivot
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Danger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christophe Pagnout
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philippe Wagner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philippe Rousselle
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pascal Poupin
    • 1
    • 2
  • François Guérold
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de LorraineLaboratoire des Interactions Ecotoxicologie Biodiversité Ecosystèmes (LIEBE), UMR 7146MetzFrance
  2. 2.CNRSLaboratoire des Interactions Ecotoxicologie Biodiversité Ecosystèmes (LIEBE), UMR 7146MetzFrance

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