Skip to main content

Biomass loss and nutrient release from decomposing aquatic macrophytes: effects of detrital mixing

Abstract

Aquatic plant decomposition is typically studied on species held separately, whereas diverse plant communities are usually found in lake littoral zones and decomposition occurs as mixtures of multiple species. Here, we examined whether detrital mixing affects the rate of aquatic macrophyte decomposition. Specifically, we measured decomposition rates of detritus from four species (Myriophyllum heterophyllum, Ceratophyllum demersum, Typha × glauca, and Potamogeton robinsii) in single, double, triple, and quadruple species mixtures held over two summer months in a mesotrophic lake in southern Ontario, Canada. We measured detrital mass loss after different time periods for all combinations. There were limited effects of mixing on decomposition rates with inhibitory effects observed in only two of the eleven multi-species mixtures. Decomposition rates of single and mixed species detritus varied with initial C:N and C:P ratios with faster rates seen for more nutrient-rich detritus. Overall, there was no effect of detrital species richness on macrophyte decomposition rates other than smaller differences among the averages of more species-rich mixtures. Our results were inconsistent with interactive effects of mixing on decomposition rates of multiple aquatic plant taxa. Instead, we found decomposition rates of mixed species communities were largely predicted by biomass composition and single-species decomposition estimates. There were also no apparent effects of species mixing on N- or P-specific fluxes or the ratio of these fluxes that resulted during decomposition during our experiment. Our results indicate that future changes in aquatic plant biodiversity may affect rates of decomposition in these ecosystems, but these should be largely predictable based on changes in plant communities and their biomass-weighted stoichiometry.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  1. Aerts R, deCaluwe H (1997) Nutritional and plant-mediated controls on leaf litter decomposition of Carex species. Ecology 78:244–260

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alexander ML, Woodford MP, Hotchkiss SC (2008) Freshwater macrophyte communities in lakes of variable landscape position and development in northern Wisconsin, USA. Aquat Bot 88:77–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. American Public Health Association (1992) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 18th edn. APHA

  4. Asaeda T, Trung VK, Manatunge J (2000) Modeling the effects of macrophyte growth and decomposition on the nutrient budget in shallow lakes. Ecol Eng 68:217–237

    Google Scholar 

  5. Battle JM, Mihuc TB (2000) Decomposition dynamics of aquatic macrophytes in the lower Atchafalaya, a large floodplain river. Hydrobiologia 418:123–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Carpenter SR (1980) Enrichment of Lake Wingra, Wisconsin, by submersed macrophyte decay. Ecology 61:1145–1155

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chapman K, Whittaker JB, Heal OW (1988) Metabolic and faunal activity in litters of tree mixtures compared with pure stands. Agric Ecosyst Environ 24:33–40

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chimney MJ, Pietro KC (2006) Decomposition of macrophyte litter in a subtropical constructed wetland in south Florida (USA). Ecol Eng 27:301–321

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Crow GE, Hellquist CB (2000) Aquatic and wetland plants of northeastern North America, vol 1: pteridophytes, gymnosperms, and angiosperms: dicotyledons, vol 2: angiosperms: monocotyledons. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison

    Google Scholar 

  10. Dodson SI, Arnott SE, Cottingham KL (2000) The relationship in lake communities between primary productivity and species richness. Ecology 81:2662–2679

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Elias JE, Meyer MW (2003) Comparisons of undeveloped and developed shorelands, Northern Wisconsin, and recommendations for restoration. Wetlands 23:800–816

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Enríquez S, Duarte CM, Sand-Jensen K (1993) Patterns in decomposition rates among photosynthetic organisms: the importance of detritus C:N:P content. Oecologia 94:457–471

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Fox J (2002) An R and S-PLUS companion to applied regression. Sage Publishing, Thousand Oaks

    Google Scholar 

  14. Frost PC, Hicks AL (2012) Human shoreline development and the nutrient stoichiometry of aquatic plant communities in Canadian Shield lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 69:1642–1650

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Frost PC, Stelzer RS, Lamberti GA, Elser JJ (2002) Ecological stoichiometry of trophic interactions in the benthos: Understanding the role of C:N:P ratios in lentic and lotic habitats. J North Am Benthol Soc 21:515–528

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fyles J, Fyles I (1993) Interaction of Douglas-fir with red ader and salal foliage litter during decomposition. Can J Forestry Res 23:358–361

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gartner TB, Cardon ZG (2004) Decomposition dynamics in mixed-species leaf litter. Oikos 104:230–246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Gessner MO, Chauvet E (1994) Importance of stream microfungi in controlling breakdown rates of leaf litter. Ecology 75:1807–1817

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gessner, MO, Gulis V, Kuehn KA, Chauvet E, Suberkropp K (2007) 17 fungal decomposers of plant litter in aquatic ecosystems. In: Kubicek CP, Druzhinina IS (eds) Environmental and microbial relationships, 2nd edn. Springer, New York, pp 301–324

    Google Scholar 

  20. Gessner MO, Swan CM, Dang CK, McKie BG, Bardgett RD, Wall DH, Hättenschwiler S (2010) Diversity meets decomposition. Trends Ecol Evol 25:372–380

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Godshalk GL, Wetzel RG (1978a) Decomposition of aquatic angiosperms II. Particulate components. Aquat Bot 5:301–327

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Godshalk GL, Wetzel RG (1978b) Decomposition in the littoral zone of lakes. In: Whigham DF, Simpson RL (eds) Freshwater wetlands: ecological processes and management potential. Academic Press, Cambridge, pp 131–143

    Google Scholar 

  23. Harris AG, Kershaw L, Newmaster SG (1997) Wetland plants of Ontario. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hättenschwiler S, Vitousek PM (2000) The role of polyphenols in terrestrial ecosystem nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 15:238–243.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Hättenschwiler S, Tiunov AV, Scheu S (2005) Biodiversity and litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Ann Rev Ecol Evol Syst 36:191–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hicks AL, Frost PC (2011) Shifts in aquatic macrophyte abundance and community composition in cottage developed lakes of the Canadian Shield. Aquat Bot 94:9–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hoorens B, Aerts R, Stroetenga M (2003) Does initial litter chemistry explain litter mixture effects on decomposition? Oecologia 137:578–586

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Kominoski JS, Hoellein TJ, Kelly JJ, Pringle CM (2009) Does mixing litter of different qualities alter stream microbial diversity and functioning on individual litter species? Oikos 118:457–463

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lan Y, Cui B, You Z, Li X, Han Z, Zhang Y, Zhang Y (2012) Litter decomposition of six macrophytes in a eutrophic shallow lake (Baiyangdian Lake, China). Clean Soil Air Water 40:1159–1166

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Lecerf A, Risnoveanu G, Popescu C, Gessner MO, Chauvet E (2007) Decomposition of diverse litter mixtures in streams. Ecology 88:219–227

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Lecerf A, Guillaume M, Kominoski JS, LeRoy CJ, Bernadet C, Swan CM (2011) Incubation time, functional litter diversity, and habitat characteristics predict litter-mixing effects on decomposition. Ecology 92:160–169

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Li X, Cui B, Yang Q, Tian H, Lan Y, Wang T, Han Z (2012) Detritus quality controls macrophyte decomposition under different nutrient concentrations in a eutrophic shallow lake, North China. PLoS One 7:1–10

    Google Scholar 

  33. Li X, Cui B, Yang Q, Lan Y, Wang T, Han Z (2013) Effects of plant species on macrophyte decomposition under three nutrient conditions in a eutrophic shallow lake, North China. Ecol Model 252:121–128

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Likens GE, Bormann FH (1995) Biogeochemistry of a forested ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, Berlin

    Book  Google Scholar 

  35. McArthur JV, Aho JM, Rader RB, Mills GL (1994) Interspecific leaf interactions during decomposition in aquatic and floodplain ecosystems. JNABS 13:57–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. McTiernan KB, Ineson P, Coward PA (1997) Respiration and nutrient release from tree leaf litter mixtures. Oikos 78:527–538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Petersen RC, Cummins KW (1974) Leaf processing in a woodland stream. Freshw Biol 4:343–368

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. R Core Team (2015) A language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria. https://www.R-project.org

  39. Reddy KR, Kadlec RH, Flaig E, Gale PM (1999) Phosphorus retention in streams and wetlands: a review. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 29:83–146

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Rejmánková E, Houdková K (2006) Wetland plant decomposition under different nutrient conditions: what is more important, litter quality or site quality? Biogeochemistry 80:245–262

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Schindler MH, Gessner MO (2009) Functional leaf traits and biodiversity effects on litter decomposition in a stream. Ecology 90:1641–1649

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Shilla D, Asaeda T, Fujino T, Sanderson B (2006) Decomposition of dominant submerged macrophytes: implications for nutrient release in Myall Lake, NSW, Australia. Wetl Ecol Manag 14:427–433

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Srivastava DS, Cardinale BJ, Downing AL, Duffy EJ, Jouseau C, Sankaran M, Wright JP (2009) Diversity has stronger top-down than bottom-up effects on decomposition. Ecology 90:1073–1083

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Sterner RW, Elser JJ (2002) Ecological stoichiometry: the biology of elements from molecules to the biosphere. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  45. Wardle DA, Bonner KI, Nicholson KS (1997) Biodiversity and plant litter: experimental evidence which does not support the view that enhanced species richness improves ecosystem function. Oikos 79:247–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. White M (2006) Phosphorus and the Kawartha Lakes. Kawartha Lakes Steward Association

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Jade Laycock for her assistance with field sampling and Clay Prater for his assistance in preparing graphical art for the manuscript. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul C. Frost.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Banks, L.K., Frost, P.C. Biomass loss and nutrient release from decomposing aquatic macrophytes: effects of detrital mixing. Aquat Sci 79, 881–890 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-017-0539-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Aquatic plants
  • Breakdown rates
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Carbon cycling
  • Nutrient release