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Oecologia. 2006 Apr;147(4):658-66. Epub 2006 Feb 23.

Aquatic hyphomycete diversity and identity affect leaf litter decomposition in microcosms.

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Department of Biology, Minho University, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal.


We conducted a microcosm experiment with monocultures and all possible combinations of four aquatic hyphomycete species, Articulospora tetracladia, Flagellospora curta, Geniculospora grandis and Heliscus submersus, to examine the potential effects of species richness on three functional aspects: leaf litter decomposition (leaf mass loss), fungal production (ergosterol buildup) and reproductive effort (released spores). Both species richness and identity significantly affected fungal biomass and conidial production (number and biomass of released spores), whereas only species identity had a significant effect on leaf mass loss. In mixed cultures, all measures of fungal functions were greater than expected from the weighted performances of participating species in monoculture. Mixed cultures outperformed the most active monoculture for biomass accumulation but not for leaf mass loss and conidial production. The three examined aspects of aquatic hyphomycete activity tended to increase with species richness, and a complementary effect was unequivocally demonstrated for fungal biomass. Our results also suggest that specific traits of certain species may have a greater influence on ecosystem functioning than species number.

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