Science of the Total Environment, 15 December 2015, Vol.538, pp.341-349
Human activity can degrade the habitat quality for aquatic communities, which ultimately impacts the functions these communities provide. Disentangling the complex interaction between environmental and anthropogenic parameters as well as their alteration both along the stream channel, over the seasons, and finally their impact in the aquatic ecosystem represents a fundamental challenge for environmental scientists. Therefore, the present study investigates the implications of successive land uses (i.e., vineyard, urban area, highway and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP)) on structural and functional endpoints related to the ecosystem process of leaf litter breakdown during a winter and summer season in a five km stretch of a second-order stream in southern Germany. This sequence of the different land uses caused, among others, a downstream decline of the ecological status from “high” to “bad” judged based on the SPEAR index together with significant shifts in the macroinvertebrate community composition, which coincided with substantial impairments (up to 100%) in the macroinvertebrate-mediated leaf decomposition. These effects, seem to be mainly driven by alterations in water quality rather than morphological modifications of the stream's habitat since the key shredder was not in direct contact with the local habitat during in situ bioassays but showed similar response patterns than the other endpoints. While the relative effect size for most endpoints deviated considerably (sometimes above 2-fold) among seasons, the general response pattern pointed to reductions in energy supply for local and downstream communities. Although the present study focused on a single low-order stream with the main purpose of describing the impact of different land uses on various levels of biological organization, which limits the direct transferability and thus applicability of results to other stream ecosystems, the findings point to the need to develop adequate management strategies mitigating land use specific exposures during all seasons to protect ecosystem integrity.
Ecosystem Function ; Leaf Litter Decomposition ; Gammarus ; Land Use ; Shredder ; Low Order Stream ; Environmental Sciences ; Biology ; Public Health
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