Microbial colonization, respiration, and breakdown of maple leaves along a stream-marsh continuum

B. H. Hill, W. T. Perrotte

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12 Scopus citations


Breakdown rates, macroinvertebrate and bacterial colonization, and microbial respiration were measured on decaying maple (Acer saccharum) leaves at three sites along a stream-marsh continuum. Breakdown rates (-k ±SE) were 0.0284±0.0045 d-1 for leaves in a high-gradient, non-tidal stream; 0.0112±0.0019 d-1 for leaves at the confluence of the stream with a tidal, freshwater marsh; and 0.0062±0.0009 d2-1 for leaves in the tidal, freshwater marsh. Breakdown rates were significantly faster (ANCOVA, F<0.008) at the high-gradient, non-tidal stream site and at the tidal stream site than in the tidal marsh. Macroinvertebrate density on decaying leaves was low at all sites (<7 organisms g-1 AFDM leaf mass) and was dominated by chironomids and amphipods. Bacterial density on decaying leaves ranged from 8.56 × 108 CFU g-1 AFDM leaf mass to 13.38 × 108 CFU g-1 AFDM. Cumulative microbial respiration, calculated as the product of mean respiration on a sampling date, days in the interval preceding the sampling date, and hours per day, accounted for 34.3±6.0%, 53.0±4.8%, and 51.5±7.9% of the leaf mass loss (as carbon) at these sites. Although the breakdown rate was fastest at the non-tidal stream site, significantly less leaf mass was lost through microbial respiration. Most mass loss from leaves at this site was probably due to physical processing associated with stream habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-16
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 1995


  • leaf litter breakdown
  • macroinvertebrate colonization
  • microbial colonization
  • microbial respiration
  • stream-marsh continuum


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