Alder stands promote N-cycling but not leaf litter mass loss in Mediterranean streams flowing through pine plantations

Año Publicación:  2023
Responsable: Juan Rubio-Ríos, María J. Salinas-Bonillo, Javier Pérez c, Encarnación Fenoy, Luz Boyero, J. Jesús Casas
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Forest Ecology and Management Volume 542


Juan Rubio-Ríos, María J. Salinas-Bonillo, Javier Pérez c, Encarnación Fenoy, Luz Boyero, J. Jesús Casas


During the last century, the abandonment of traditional dryland farming and pastures in the Mediterranean basin promoted the development of ambitious afforestation programs causing a drastic transformation of the landscape. Afforestation programs were usually accomplished without considering the potential ecological impacts on the recipient ecosystems. Forest streams rely on terrestrial organic detritus, so their functioning and conservation status can be altered by changes in riparian forest biodiversity and composition. However, the influences of conifer plantations in particular on stream functioning are still unclear, possibly because the presence of multiple species in plantations or the presence of other species in the riparian zones of streams may act as buffers of such effects. Here, by means of a field experiment, we assessed whether the presence of black alder in the riparian zone and/or as leaf litter within the stream may mitigate the impacts exerted by pine plantations on stream ecosystem functioning. We found (i) that streams were functionally similar but differed in water N concentrations; (ii) no differences in litter mas loss between riparian types, but higher total litter mass loss of those mixtures containing alder leaf litter; and (iii) higher N losses (or lower N gains) for all litter types in streams without riparian alder. These results demonstrate that microbial decomposers can use either stream water N or litter N, and that detritivores can feed simultaneously on resources of contrasting quality to balance their diet. Our study underscores the effect of even low-density riparian cover of alder promoting microbial nutrient cycling by moderate increases of water N concentrations. We suggest thinning of pine plantations combined with planting of native deciduous species as alder to alleviate the effects of pine plantations on Mediterranean streams.

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