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Two microcrustaceans affect microbial and macroinvertebrate-driven litter breakdown

Abstract : 1. Leaf litter degradation in fresh waters is a fundamental ecosystem process performed by a wide array of decomposers. The meiofauna is an important component of aquatic heterotrophic assemblages, which can provide a trophic link between plant detritus and associated microbial and macroinvertebrate communities, but their contribution to leaf breakdown remains poorly understood. 2. We hypothesised that, through their feeding activity, microcrustaceans influence the structure of fungal assemblages and consequently microbially mediated litter breakdown. Litter-associated microcrustaceans were predicted to change the pathways of energy transfer in the food web according to the positive (e.g. complementarity) or negative (e.g. predation) interactions with macroinvertebrate detritivore taxa. 3. We evaluated experimentally in the laboratory, over 6 and 13 days, the potential contribution of two freshwater microcrustaceans (a cladoceran and a copepod) to litter breakdown in the presence of microfungi (aquatic hyphomycetes), with and without macroinvertebrate detritivores (a trichopteran and a gammarid amphipod). 4. The presence of microcrustaceans enhanced leaf mass loss by 62 and 22% in treatments with fungi or trichopteran alone, respectively, while no significant effect was observed for treatments with the amphipod. Microcrustaceans strongly increased the production of fine particulate organic matter, particularly in treatments with fungi alone (+637%). The leaf consumption rate by the amphipod significantly decreased ( 61%) at 13 days in the presence of microcrustaceans, likely due to predation on cladocerans. 5. Our study supports the potential role of microcrustaceans in the detrital food web of streams and rivers. Interestingly, microcrustaceans may interact with microbial and macroinvertebrate decomposers in either positive or negative ways. Therefore, microcrustaceans add complexity to detrital food webs by increasing vertical diversity and modulating biotic interactions with important consequences for carbon and energy transfers in stream ecosystems.
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Sophie Chambord, Michèle Tackx, Eric Chauvet, Guillaume Escolar, Fanny Colas. Two microcrustaceans affect microbial and macroinvertebrate-driven litter breakdown. Freshwater Biology, Wiley, 2017, vol. 62 (n° 3), pp. 530-543. ⟨10.1111/fwb.12883⟩. ⟨hal-01516809⟩



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