Sep 4, 2004

Contribution of fungi and bacteria to leaf litter decomposition in a polluted river

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Cláudia Pascoal, Fernanda Cássio


The contribution of fungi and bacteria to the decomposition of alder leaves was examined at two reference and two polluted sites in the Ave River (northwestern Portugal). Leaf mass loss, microbial production from incorporation rates of radiolabeled compounds into biomolecules, fungal biomass from ergosterol concentration, sporulation rates, and diversity of aquatic hyphomycetes associated with decomposing leaves were determined. The concentrations of organic nutrients and of inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus in the stream water was elevated and increased at downstream sites. Leaf decomposition rates were high (0.013 day(-1) < k < 0.042 day(-1)), and the highest value was estimated at the most downstream polluted site, where maximum values of microbial production and fungal biomass and sporulation were found. The slowest decomposition occurred at the other polluted site, where, along with the nutrient enrichment, the lowest current velocity and dissolved-oxygen concentration in water were observed. At this site, fungal production, biomass, and sporulation were depressed, suggesting that stimulation of fungal activity by increased nutrient concentrations might be offset by other factors. Although bacterial production was higher a...Continue Reading

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