, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 1225–1239 | Cite as

Forest Structure Affects the Stoichiometry of Periphyton Primary Producers in Mountain Streams of Northern Patagonia

  • Nicolás MartyniukEmail author
  • Beatriz Modenutti
  • Esteban Balseiro


Riparian zones are major components of stream ecosystems that influence the physical, chemical, and biological parameters. In particular, the distribution of vertical foliage and the structure of riparian vegetation determine light availability in canopied streams. Here, we analyzed how forest structure will modify light availability and thus affect primary producers’ photosynthetic parameters and the periphyton stoichiometry of mountain streams. We carried out field sampling in four streams with different canopies located in the North-Patagonian Andes and conducted a field experiment in which light conditions were manipulated for four months. Then, we linked our results to qualitative climate change scenarios for North-Patagonian forest predicting how future climate change will affect primary producers and periphyton stoichiometry in low-order streams through modifications in the structure of canopied zones. Finally, we found that biomass, photosynthetic parameters and the elemental content of periphyton exhibited a bell-shaped relationship with light availability which was, in turn, dependent on canopy cover. These trends are characterized by an increase from low light up to 250 μmol m−2 s−1 and a decline when light is over 750 μmol m−2 s−1. Thus, intermediate light resulted in optimal conditions for primary producers’ photosynthesis; however, these intermediate canopied zones are predicted to decrease in the future. Therefore, we predict changes in stream ecosystem stoichiometry due to variations in primary producers’ photosynthesis, and, consequently, periphyton elemental composition as an outcome of forest structure modifications due to climate change.


canopy primary producers photosynthesis periphyton stoichiometry Nothofagus climate change 



We thank to Paul Frost and one anonymous reviewer whose comments and suggestions greatly improved this manuscript. We thank the National Park Administration of Argentina for authorization to carry out this study. This work was supported by Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnica PICT 2012-1168 and PICT 2014-1002.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolás Martyniuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Beatriz Modenutti
    • 1
  • Esteban Balseiro
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de LimnologíalINIBIOMA, CONICET-UN ComahueBariloche Rio NegroArgentina

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