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Warming, and the presence of a dominant shredder, drive variation in decomposer communities in a mountain stream


We assessed the effects of rising temperature and presence of a dominant detritivore (Allogamus laureatus; Trichoptera, Limnephilidae) on the decomposition of submerged oak litter (Quercus robur L.) and associated detritivore and fungal communities in a mountain stream in central Portugal. It was divided longitudinally, with one half maintained at ambient temperature (mean = 12.4 °C) while the other was warmed ~3 °C above ambient temperature. Oak leaves in litter bags were incubated in both stream halves, with half of the bags containing one A. laureatus larva. Replicate bags were collected over 6 weeks to determine litter mass remaining and the detritivore and fungal communities. A. laureatus stimulated decomposition of oak litter and colonization by other shredders at ambient temperature. It also increased fungal biomass at increased temperature, and changed the community of fungi. Higher temperature inhibited A. laureatus activity, resulting in a substantial change in the strength of interactions within both fungal and detritivore assemblages, with important consequences for leaf litter decomposition.

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We thank Cristina Docal for the ion chromatography analyses, and Ana Lírio and João Rosa for valuable help in the field. We also thank the Company Amado and Amado Lda., Coimbra, Portugal, for the help in the construction of the heating tanks and setup of the system in the stream and the Municipality of Lousã, Portugal, for their support and help in the setup of the hydraulic infrastructures and warming facilities. We gratefully acknowledge Prof. Brian Moss and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the COMPETE––Operational Factors of Competitiveness Program (POFC-COMPETE) and national funds through FCT––Foundation for Science and Technology, under the project “Predicting the effect of global warming on stream ecosystems” (FCT Ref: PTDC/CLI/67180/2006; COMPETE Ref: FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-007112). Financial support granted by the FCT to VF (references SFRH/BPD/34368/2006 and SFRH/BPD/76482/2011, program POPH/FSE) is gratefully acknowledged.

Author information

Correspondence to Cátia Domingos.


Appendix 1

Taxa recorded in the study area during the experimental period, and their characterization into functional feeding groups (FFG). For Coleoptera, A indicates adult individuals and L indicates larvae.

Higher level Species FFG
Order trichoptera Allogamus laureatus Shredder
Catagapetus Grazer
Diplectrona felix Collector
F. Ecnomidae Predator
Glossosoma Grazer
Goera pilosa Grazer
Helicopsyche helicifex Grazer
Hydropsyche ambigua Collector
Lepidostoma hirtum Shredder
F. Lepidostomatidae Shredder
Plectronemia laetabilis Predator
F. Polycentropodinae Predator
Polycentropus Predator
Polycentropus corniger Predator
Rhyacophila lusitanica Predator
Sericostoma Shredder
F. Sericostomatidae Shredder (Generally)
Order ephemeroptera Acentrella sinaica Grazer
Baetis Grazer
Centroptilum Grazer
Ecdyonurus Grazer
Ephemerella Shredder/grazer
Habroleptoides Grazer
Habrophlebia Shredder
Order plecoptera Capnia Shredder
Chloroperla Shredder
Isoperla Shredder
Leuctridae Shredder
Nemoura Shredder
F. Nemouridae Shredders/collectors
Protonemura Shredder
Order coleoptera Chyphon (L) Grazer
Coelambus (A) Shredder/piercer
Coelostoma (A) No information
Copelatus (A) Shredder
Elmis (L) Grazer
Elodes (L) Grazer
Helophorus Shredder
Hydraena (A) Grazer
Macroplea (A) Shredder
Microcara (L) Grazer
Noterus (A) Shredder/predator
Octhebius (A) Grazer
Oulimnius (A) Grazer
Platambus (L) Shredder/piercer
Odonata Condulegaster Predator
Calopterix Predator
Order diptera Atherix Piercer
Tr. Chironomini Collector
sF. Clinocerinae Predator
Dixa Collector
Athichopogon No information
sF. Hemerodromiinae Predator
sF. Orthocladinae Grazer
Tr. Prosimuliini Collector
F. Rhagionidae No information
Tr Simuliini Collector
sF. Tanypodinae Predator
Tr. Tanytarsini Collector
Tipula Shredder
Class gastropoda Ancylus fluviatilis Grazer
Bythynella Grazer
Class hirudinea Erpobdella octoculata Collector
Acari   Parasite
Turbellaria Polycelis nigra and P. tenuis Predator
Class oligochaeta F. Naididae Collector
F. Tubificidae Collector

Appendix 2

Taxa recorded in the study area during the experimental period.

Fungal species
Alatospora acuminata
Alatospora pulchella
Anguillospora furtiva
Anguillospora filiformis
Articulospora tetracladia
Clavariopsis aquatica
Clavatospora longibrachiata
Culicidospora aquatica
Flagellospora curvula
Heliscus lugdunensis
Lemonniera terrestris
Lunulospora curvula
Margaritispora aquatica/Goniopila monticola
Tetrachaetum elegans
Tricladium chaetocladium
Tricladium splendens
Triscelophorus acuminatus
Triscelophorus monosporus
Unidentified tetraradiate

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Domingos, C., Ferreira, V., Canhoto, C. et al. Warming, and the presence of a dominant shredder, drive variation in decomposer communities in a mountain stream. Aquat Sci 77, 129–140 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-014-0378-z

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  • Aquatic communities
  • Climate change
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Allogamus laureatus
  • Species interactions