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Studies on decomposition of ceratophyllum demersum litter under laboratory and field conditions losses of dry mass and nutrients qualitative changes in organic compounds and consequences for ambient water and sediments



Studies on decomposition of ceratophyllum demersum litter under laboratory and field conditions losses of dry mass and nutrients qualitative changes in organic compounds and consequences for ambient water and sediments



Hydrobiologia 194(2): 91-114



A study was made of decomposition of Ceratophyllum demersum litter over a 17-day period under controlled conditions of temperature and oxygen (5, 10, and 18.degree.C; aerobic and anaerobic) and over a 169-day period in the field (Lake Vechten, The Netherlands). Litter, water and sediment were sampled on the 0, 2,4, 7 and 17 th day under controlled conditions and on the 0, 17, 49, 127 and 169th day in the field. The litter was analyzed quantitatively for dry mass, ash, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and qualitatively of organic composition by pyrolysis mass spectrometry. The water was analyzed for the elemental concentrations of organic carbon (total and dissolved), nitrogen (total, ammonia and particulate) and phosphorus (total and orthophosphate) and for the concentrations of photosynthetic pigments and bacteria. The sediment was analyzed for the elemental concentrations of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus, and for bacterial numbers. The pattern of litter mass loss fitted on exponential model fairly well. Mass decreased faster under controlled aerobic than under anaerobic conditions and the decrease was stimulated by increasing temperature, relative more in the range of 5 to 10.degree.C (by 20%) than in the range of 10 of 18.degree.C (by 2%). The residual mass ranged from 73 to 43% of initial under controlled aerobic conditions and from 84 to 65% under anaerobic conditions after 17 days. It decreased far less in the field, to 38% of initial mass in the field after 169 days. The litter initially lost a carbohydrate fraction by leaching in all treatments. The protein content decreased initially as well but increased subsequently at increasing temperature stimulated under anaerobic conditions. The changes in organic composition were correlated with those in nitrogen but not with those in carbon and phosphorus contents. The organic composition of litter incubated in the field differed from that of litter incubated in the laboratory. The field residues contained less proteinaceous material than the laboratory residues. The changes in carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus concentrations in the litter showed different patterns. The carbon concentration generally increased, the nitrogen concentration initially dropped and increased subsequently, and the phosphorus concentration initially dropped and remained relatively constant subsequently. Chemical immobilization of the decomposition process may have occurred in the laboratory, but was unlikely in the field. Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus left the litter initially largely in particulate form and were recovered in the water. The ratio dissolved: total nutrient concentration was lower under controlled aerobic than under anaerobic conditions. Increasing temperature stimulated bacterial use of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen. A rapid nutrient flow occurred from macrophyte litter, via water to sediment. The phytoplankton biomass in the water was greatly stimulated by substances freed from the decomposing litter. Diatoms increased generally relatively more than green algae, predominating alternatively with green algae under aerobic conditions and continuously under anaerobic conditions. Bacterial numbers in the water initially increased, partly due to transgression of bacteria from the sediment-water interface to the water and partly due to an actual increase in community biomass. The bacteria returned largely to the sediment-water interface, stimulated by increasing temperature, as most of the substrate readily usable by them had left the litter in the litter-bag and was associated with the upper sediment layers. It is feasible that the annual die-off of the C. demersum population of Lake Vechten barely affects nutrient cycling in the lake, because the contribution to the nutrient pools of the lake when fully mixed is only small. However, small particles originating from decomposing C. demersum litter may influence the lake considerably by decreasing water transparency and serving as a food source for filter-feeders and detritivorous macrofauna.

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Accession: 007831630

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