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Higher temperature reduces the effects of litter quality on decomposition by aquatic fungi


Fernanda Cássio, Department of Biology, Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology (CBMA), University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal. E-mail:


1. We investigated the effects of riparian plant diversity (species number and identity) and temperature on microbially mediated leaf decomposition by assessing fungal biodiversity, fungal reproduction and leaf mass loss.

2. Leaves of five riparian plant species were first immersed in a stream to allow microbial colonisation and were then exposed, alone or in all possible combinations, at 16 or 24 °C in laboratory microcosms.

3. Fungal biodiversity was reduced by temperature but was not affected by litter diversity. Temperature altered fungal community composition with species of warmer climate, such as Lunulospora curvula, becoming dominant.

4. Fungal reproduction was affected by litter diversity, but not by temperature. Fungal reproduction in leaf mixtures did not differ or was lower than that expected from the weighted sum of fungal sporulation on individual leaf species. At the higher temperature, the negative effect of litter diversity on fungal reproduction decreased with the number of leaf species.

5. Leaf mass loss was affected by the identity of leaf mixtures (i.e. litter quality), but not by leaf species number. This was mainly explained by the negative correlation between leaf decomposition and initial lignin concentration of leaves.

6. At 24 °C, the negative effects of lignin on microbially mediated leaf decomposition diminished, suggesting that higher temperatures may weaken the effects of litter quality on plant litter decomposition in streams.

7. The reduction in the negative effects of lignin at the higher temperature resulted in an increased microbially mediated litter decomposition, which may favour invertebrate-mediated litter decomposition leading to a depletion of litter stocks in streams.