Main content area

Influence of aperiodic summer droughts on leaf litter breakdown and macroinvertebrate assemblages: testing the drying memory in a Central Apennines River (Aterno River, Italy)

Pinna, Maurizio, Marini, Gabriele, Cristiano, Giovanni, Mazzotta, Luca, Vignini, Patrizia, Cicolani, Bruno, Di Sabatino, Antonio
Hydrobiologia 2016 v.782 no.1 pp. 111-126
Phragmites australis, biomass, climate change, drought, drying, ephemeral streams, macroinvertebrates, memory, metabolism, microbial communities, plant litter, rivers, species diversity, summer, water utilization, Italy
Climate changes, geomorphologic modifications and the rise in water demand for human uses contribute to “aperiodic summer drought” (ASD) events in Mediterranean-type rivers. ASD results in a reach that flows in one summer, dries in next or more summers, and then flowing again. The ecological structure and function of streams affected by ASD are understudied, especially with respect to permanent and regular intermittent streams. We tested the drying memory in a reach of Aterno River (Italy) disturbed by ASD. Leaf litter breakdown of Phragmites australis and macroinvertebrate assemblages were studied. Discharge was monitored since 2006. The experiment was performed during summer 2010 using the litterbag technique, and was replicated four times. The disturbed site was affected by drought in the three previous summers while the control was always flowing. Taxonomic diversity indices, abundance and structure of macroinvertebrate assemblages varied significantly between sites. Instead, leaf litter breakdown wasn’t influenced by ASD. Therefore ASD events seem to affect the structure of macroinvertebrate assemblages, confirming the role of drying memory of the systems. The resilience of leaf litter breakdown in reach affected by ASD seems to be high, probably depending on the activity of selected microbial communities and macroinvertebrate features like metabolism and biomass.