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A global experiment suggests climate warming will not accelerate litter decomposition in streams but might reduce carbon sequestration

Authors

  • Luz Boyero,

    Corresponding author
    1. Wetland Ecology Department, Doñana Biological Station-CSIC, Avda Americo Vespucio s/n, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain
    2. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
      E-mail: luz.boyero@ebd.csic.es
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  • Richard G. Pearson,

    1. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
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  • Mark O. Gessner,

    1. Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
    2. Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
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    • Present address: Department of Stratified Lakes, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Alte Fischerhütte 2, 16775 Stechlin, Germany

    • Present address: Department of Ecology, Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin), Franklinstr. 29, 10587 Berlin, Germany

  • Leon A. Barmuta,

    1. Freshwater Ecology Group, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
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  • Verónica Ferreira,

    1. IMAR-CMA & Department Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3001-401 Coimbra, Portugal
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  • Manuel A. S. Graça,

    1. IMAR-CMA & Department Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3001-401 Coimbra, Portugal
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  • David Dudgeon,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
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  • Andrew J. Boulton,

    1. Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
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  • Marcos Callisto,

    1. Laboratorio de Ecologia de Bentos, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, CP 486, 30161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
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  • Eric Chauvet,

    1. Université de Toulouse, UPS, INPT, EcoLab, 29 rue Jeanne Marvig, F-31055 Toulouse, France
    2. CNRS, EcoLab, F-31055 Toulouse, France
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  • Julie E. Helson,

    1. Surface and Groundwater Ecology Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, ON M1C1A4, Canada
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  • Andreas Bruder,

    1. Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
    2. Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
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  • Ricardo J. Albariño,

    1. Laboratorio de Limnología, INIBIOMA, Universidad Nacional del Comahue-CONICET, Bariloche, Argentina
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  • Catherine M. Yule,

    1. School of Science, Monash University, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Selangor, Malaysia
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  • Muthukumarasamy Arunachalam,

    1. Sri Paramakalyani Centre for Environmental Sciences, Manonmainam Sundaranar University, Alwarkuruchi, Tamil Nadu, India
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  • Judy N. Davies,

    1. Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
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  • Ricardo Figueroa,

    1. Aquatic Systems Research Unit, Environmental Science Center EULA-Chile, University of Concepción, PO Box 160-C, Concepción, Chile
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  • Alexander S. Flecker,

    1. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, E 203 Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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  • Alonso Ramírez,

    1. Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 70377, San Juan, PR 00936, USA
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  • Russell G. Death,

    1. Institute of Natural Resources, Ecology PN624, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand
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  • Tomoya Iwata,

    1. Faculty of Engineering, University of Yamanashi, 4-3-11 Takeda, Kofu 400-8511, Japan
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  • Jude M. Mathooko,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Egerton University, PO Box 536, Egerton, Kenya
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  • Catherine Mathuriau,

    1. Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Antigua Carretera a Pátzcuaro No 8701, Ex-Hacienda de San José de la Huerta, CP 58190, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
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  • José F. Gonçalves Jr,

    1. Laboratorio de Ecologia de Bentos, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, CP 486, 30161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
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    • Present address: Laboratório de Limnologia, Departamento de Ecologia, IB, Universidade de Brasília, 70910-900, Brasília, DF, Brazil

  • Marcelo S. Moretti,

    1. Laboratorio de Ecologia de Bentos, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, CP 486, 30161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
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    • Present address: Centro Universitário Vila Velha, Programa de Pós Graduação em Ecologia de Ecossistemas, 29102-770, Vila Velha, ES, Brazil

  • Tajang Jinggut,

    1. School of Science, Monash University, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Selangor, Malaysia
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  • Sylvain Lamothe,

    1. Université de Toulouse, UPS, INPT, EcoLab, 29 rue Jeanne Marvig, F-31055 Toulouse, France
    2. CNRS, EcoLab, F-31055 Toulouse, France
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  • Charles M’Erimba,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Egerton University, PO Box 536, Egerton, Kenya
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  • Lavenia Ratnarajah,

    1. Freshwater Ecology Group, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
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  • Markus H. Schindler,

    1. Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
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  • José Castela,

    1. IMAR-CMA & Department Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3001-401 Coimbra, Portugal
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  • Leonardo M. Buria,

    1. Laboratorio de Limnología, INIBIOMA, Universidad Nacional del Comahue-CONICET, Bariloche, Argentina
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  • Aydeé Cornejo,

    1. Sección de Entomología, Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la Salud, Avenida Justo Arosemena & Calle 35, 0816-02593, Panama City, Panamá
    2. Programa Centroamericano de Maestría en Entomología, Universidad de Panamá, Panama City, Panamá
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  • Verónica D. Villanueva,

    1. Laboratorio de Limnología, INIBIOMA, Universidad Nacional del Comahue-CONICET, Bariloche, Argentina
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  • Derek C. West

    1. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, E 203 Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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    • Present address: Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA


E-mail: luz.boyero@ebd.csic.es

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 289–294

Abstract

The decomposition of plant litter is one of the most important ecosystem processes in the biosphere and is particularly sensitive to climate warming. Aquatic ecosystems are well suited to studying warming effects on decomposition because the otherwise confounding influence of moisture is constant. By using a latitudinal temperature gradient in an unprecedented global experiment in streams, we found that climate warming will likely hasten microbial litter decomposition and produce an equivalent decline in detritivore-mediated decomposition rates. As a result, overall decomposition rates should remain unchanged. Nevertheless, the process would be profoundly altered, because the shift in importance from detritivores to microbes in warm climates would likely increase CO2 production and decrease the generation and sequestration of recalcitrant organic particles. In view of recent estimates showing that inland waters are a significant component of the global carbon cycle, this implies consequences for global biogeochemistry and a possible positive climate feedback.

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