Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The impacts of biotic and abiotic factors on resource subsidy processes : leaf litter breakdown in freshwaters
Author: Xiang, H.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Freshwaters are closely linked with adjacent terrestrial ecosystems through reciprocal resource subsidies, which are fluxes of nutrients, organisms, and materials between ecosystems. Terrestrial ecosystems provide many resource subsidies to freshwaters including leaf litter, one of the most prevalent terrestrial-derived subsidies. Inputs of leaf litter fuel detritivores food web, as food resources and refuges, and affect nutrients cycling in freshwaters. The decomposition of leaf litter is subjected to many biotic and abiotic factors, which makes it a good indicator of freshwater ecosystem functioning. Yet, this ecosystem process has been affected by anthropogenic disturbances that alter abiotic and biotic factors in the nature. Therefore, this thesis aimed to investigate some previously under-investigated or unclear but important factors that may affect the decomposition of leaf litter in streams. First, I reviewed the importance of resource subsidy fluxes between riparian zones and freshwaters and how these subsidies can influence recipient ecosystems. Then, I conducted a field experiment exploring the effects of anthropogenic carrion subsidy (chicken meat) and environmental-relevant concentration of glyphosate (the most widely applied herbicides worldwide) on leaf litter decomposition and invertebrate communities colonizing in the leaf-litter bags deploying in streams with different types of land use. Next, I conducted a mesocosm experiment nearby an urban stream to investigate the effects of water temperature (~ 8 oC above vs ambient), consumer - snails (presence vs absence), and leaf-litter quality (intact vs >40 % leaf area was consumed by terrestrial insects) on litter decomposition. Finally, I explored the global patterns of riparian leaf litter C, N, P, and their stoichiometric ratios to gradients of climatic (mean annual temperature and precipitation) and geographic (absolute latitude and altitude) factors, and the differences between biotic factors (phylogeny, leaf habit, N-fixing function, invasion status, and life form). The results of field experiment indicated that: in coarse mesh bags, glyphosate, carrion subsidy, and the addition of both decreased litter breakdown rates by 6.3 %, 22.6 %, and 24.3 % respectively; in fine mesh bags, glyphosate and the addition of both retarded litter breakdown rates by 8.3 % and 12.5 % respectively. Litter decomposition also differed among streams, with the highest breakdown rates in village streams and lowest in urban/suburban streams. Invertebrates were significantly different among streams, with biodiversity index and total taxon richness were highest in village streams and lowest in suburban stream. However, overall effects of carrion subsidy and glyphosate on macroinvertebrates were not significant. The results of mesocosm experiment indicated that warming and the presence of snails accelerated litter decomposition by 60.2 % and 34.9 % respectively, while litter breakdown rates of terrestrial insect damaged leaves were 5.1 % slower than intact leaves because of lower leaf litter quality. The results of meta-analysis study demonstrated that global riparian leaf litter had higher N and P, while lower C, C:N, and C:P ratios than terrestrial leaf litter in general. Riparian leaf litter quality changed with gradients of climatic and geographic predictors, and these patterns differed between leaf habits (evergreen or deciduous) and climate zones (tropical or non-tropical area). In general, my research provides important information on resource subsidy processes, which will benefit freshwater ecosystem management to support biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services.
Supervisor: Zhang, Yixin ; Raju, Sekar ; Atkinson, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral