Floodplain Preconditioning of Leaf Litter Modulates the Subsidy of Terrestrial C and Nutrients in Fluvial Ecosystems

del Campo, RubénMartí, Eugènia Bastias, ElliotBarberá, Gonzalo G.Sánchez-Montoya, Martía MarGómez, Rosa. Ecosystems : doi:10.1007/s10021-020-00508-5 (2020)  DIGITAL CSIC

Leaf litter can be retained in floodplains for several months before it enters rivers as lateral inputs. During this period, the environmental conditions on the floodplain can alter leaf litter chemistry and, consequently, affect its subsequent processing in the river. We analysed the effect of contrasting floodplain conditions on the chemical composition of leaf litter and its leachates, and how this affected their biodegradability and processing in rivers. To do so, we placed reed leaf litter (Phragmites australis) in open- and closed-canopy habitats of three floodplain sites with contrasting climates (semiarid Mediterranean, humid Mediterranean and continental) for 105 days. We then used litterbags in a river to examine the decomposition of preconditioned leaf litter in comparison with a control (nonpreconditioned litter), and laboratory assays to examine the biodegradation of their leachates. Contrasting conditions on the floodplain prompted differences in the nutrient content of leaf litter among floodplain sites. Preconditioning caused a generalized decline in the C content and an increase in the lignin content of leaf litter. Even so, preconditioning did not affect litter decomposition rates in the river, although it did reduce decomposition efficiency and biodegradability of leachates. Shredder colonization of litter was variable and generally higher on preconditioned litter, but not significantly so. Different floodplain conditions had no influence on the aquatic processing of preconditioned litter. Our results demonstrate that the retention of leaf litter in terrestrial environments can affect C budgets of fluvial ecosystems and the recipient food web by reducing the input and the biodegradability of C and nutrients.