Microbial Ecology

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 263–276 | Cite as

Seasonal Variability May Affect Microbial Decomposers and Leaf Decomposition More Than Warming in Streams

  • Sofia Duarte
  • Fernanda Cássio
  • Verónica Ferreira
  • Cristina Canhoto
  • Cláudia Pascoal
Microbiology of Aquatic Systems


Ongoing climate change is expected to affect the diversity and activity of aquatic microbes, which play a key role in plant litter decomposition in forest streams. We used a before-after control-impact (BACI) design to study the effects of warming on a forest stream reach. The stream reach was divided by a longitudinal barrier, and during 1 year (ambient year) both stream halves were at ambient temperature, while in the second year (warmed year) the temperature in one stream half was increased by ca. 3 °C above ambient temperature (experimental half). Fine-mesh bags containing oak (Quercus robur L.) leaves were immersed in both stream halves for up to 60 days in spring and autumn of the ambient and warmed years. We assessed leaf-associated microbial diversity by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and identification of fungal conidial morphotypes and microbial activity by quantifying leaf mass loss and productivity of fungi and bacteria. In the ambient year, no differences were found in leaf decomposition rates and microbial productivities either between seasons or stream halves. In the warmed year, phosphorus concentration in the stream water, leaf decomposition rates, and productivity of bacteria were higher in spring than in autumn. They did not differ between stream halves, except for leaf decomposition, which was higher in the experimental half in spring. Fungal and bacterial communities differed between seasons in both years. Seasonal changes in stream water variables had a greater impact on the activity and diversity of microbial decomposers than a warming regime simulating a predicted global warming scenario.


Global warming Streams Plant-litter decomposition Microbial activity and productivity BACI design 



We thank Ana Lírio and João Rosa for valuable help in the field, Amado & Amado Company for the efficacy and constant maintenance of the warming system, and the Lousã Town Hall for its collaboration and logistic support. We also want to thank two anonymous reviewers and Felix Bärlocher for the comments and suggestions made on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was funded by IMAR-CMA, CBMA-UM, the European Fund for Economic and Regional Development (FEDER) through the Program Operational Factors of Competitiveness (COMPETE), and National Funds through the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) under the projects “Predicting the effect of global warming on stream ecosystems” (PTDC/CLI/67180/2006; FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-007112) and “Development of molecular tools for assessing fungal diversity and activity in freshwaters” (PTDC/AAC-AMB/113746/2009; FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-013954) and PEst-C/BIA/UI4050/2011. Financial support granted by the FCT to VF (SFRH/BPD/34368/2006 and SFRH/BPD/76482/2011, program POPH/FSE; IF/00129/2014) and SD (SFRH/BPD/47574/2008 and SFRH/BPD/109842/2015) is also gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

248_2016_780_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 27 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sofia Duarte
    • 1
  • Fernanda Cássio
    • 1
    • 2
  • Verónica Ferreira
    • 3
  • Cristina Canhoto
    • 4
  • Cláudia Pascoal
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology (CBMA), Department of BiologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Institute of Science and Innovation for Bio-Sustainability (IB-S)University of MinhoBragaPortugal
  3. 3.Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE), Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  4. 4.Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE), Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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