Effects of shredding amphipod density on watercress Nasturtium officinale breakdown

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Shredding stream invertebrates should have a positive influence on the breakdown rates of leaf litter via direct consumption and particle fragmentation. To determine the effects of shredder density on litter breakdown, breakdown of the emergent stream macrophyte, Nasturtium officinale, was investigated using three litter bag mesh sizes [fine (0.2 mm), medium (1 mm) and coarse (3 mm) mesh] and four stocking densities of the shredder, Gammarus pseudolimnaeus, (0, 4, 8 and 16 per bag). Watercress decayed very rapidly, with breakdown rates (k values) ranging from 0.075 d‐1 for fine mesh with no shredders to 0.24 d‐1 for coarse mesh. Stocked Gammarus increased breakdown rates significantly in fine mesh bags (p < 0.001), but only marginally in medium mesh bags (p < 0.1). Breakdown rates also increased significantly with mesh size. A regression model showed a significant relation of breakdown rate to Gammarus density and mesh size. These results clearly show that shredders can significantly influence breakdown rates and can account for up to 30% of breakdown, but that mesh size effects such as particle size reduction and loss are also very important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-299
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990


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