Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 711–725 | Cite as

Aquatic hyphomycetes, benthic macroinvertebrates and leaf litter decomposition in streams naturally differing in riparian vegetation

  • Verónica Ferreira
  • José Castela
  • Paulo Rosa
  • Alan Mosele Tonin
  • Luz Boyero
  • Manuel A. S. Graça


Small forest streams and their riparian vegetation are closely linked ecosystems. Stream consumers obtain most of their energy from leaf litter provided by the terrestrial vegetation. Thus, understanding the relationship between riparian vegetation, aquatic communities and litter decomposition may help explaining the variability in aquatic communities and processes among non-impacted streams, and anticipate their responses to anthropogenic-induced changes in the riparian vegetation. We surveyed 10 small non-impacted forest streams in central Portugal for riparian vegetation (species richness), benthic litter (species richness and biomass), aquatic hyphomycete conidia in transport (species richness and conidia concentration) and macroinvertebrates associated with benthic litter (taxon richness, density and biomass), during the litter fall peak. We found significant correlations between (a) aquatic communities and riparian vegetation species richness, (b) aquatic communities and benthic litter species richness and biomass and (c) within aquatic communities. Oak litter decomposition rates (from a previous experiment on the same streams) were also correlated with riparian tree species richness. This survey showed that spatial variability in riparian vegetation, benthic litter, aquatic communities and litter decomposition can be high even within a relatively small area, and allowed the identification of complex interactions between these components of the aquatic detrital food web. The positive correlation between aquatic hyphomycete species richness, macroinvertebrate taxon richness, litter decomposition and riparian tree species richness suggests that anthropogenic-induced decreases in riparian species richness may affect aquatic communities and processes. Surveys over streams naturally differing in environmental conditions may allow forecasting the response of aquatic communities and processes to anthropogenic activities.


Deciduous vegetation Forest streams Litter breakdown Litter processing 



We thank Elsa Rodrigues for ion chromatography analysis and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was partially supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the strategic project UID/MAR/04292/2013 granted to MARE and by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration through the project 7980-06 granted to Luz Boyero. Financial support granted to Verónica Ferreira by the FCT (SFRH/BPD/34368/2006, program POPH/FSE; IF/00129/2014) is also acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10452_2016_9588_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (844 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 844 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Limnology Laboratory, Department of Ecology, IBUniversity of Brasília (UnB)BrasíliaBrazil
  4. 4.Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)LeioaSpain
  5. 5.IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain
  6. 6.College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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