1. A litter-bag experiment was undertaken in a pond on the margins of a large temperate floodplain in south-western France to assess the potential influence of the replacement of native by exotic riparian species on organic matter degradation. We determined initial litter chemical composition, breakdown rates and the invertebrate assemblages associated with the litter for five pairs of native dominant and exotic invasive species co-occurring at different stages along a successional gradient.
2. Litter chemical composition, breakdown rates and abundance and diversity of detritivorous invertebrates were similar for the exotic and native species overall. No overall changes in organic matter degradation can thus be predicted from the replacement of dominant natives by exotic invasives. Breakdown rates were primarily driven by the C/N ratio.
3. One invasive species (Buddleja davidii) showed significantly higher breakdown rates than its native counterpart (Populus nigra), resulting in the disappearance of leaf litter 6 months prior to the next litterfall. In some cases, therefore, invasion by exotic species may result in discontinuity of resource supply for decomposers.