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PLoS One. 2017 Apr 19;12(4):e0175436. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175436. eCollection 2017.

Rainfall changes affect the algae dominance in tank bromeliad ecosystems.

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Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Fundação Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Brazilian Research Network on Climate Change-Rede Clima, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil.
Department of Environmental Sciences, Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Climate change and biodiversity loss have been reported as major disturbances in the biosphere which can trigger changes in the structure and functioning of natural ecosystems. Nonetheless, empirical studies demonstrating how both factors interact to affect shifts in aquatic ecosystems are still unexplored. Here, we experimentally test how changes in rainfall distribution and litter diversity affect the occurrence of the algae-dominated condition in tank bromeliad ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are miniature aquatic ecosystems shaped by the rainwater and allochthonous detritus accumulated in the bases of their leaves. Here, we demonstrated that changes in the rainfall distribution were able to reduce the chlorophyll-a concentration in the water of bromeliad tanks affecting significantly the occurrence of algae-dominated conditions. On the other hand, litter diversity did not affect the algae dominance irrespective to the rainfall scenario. We suggest that rainfall changes may compromise important self-reinforcing mechanisms responsible for maintaining high levels of algae on tank bromeliads ecosystems. We summarized these results into a theoretical model which suggests that tank bromeliads may show two different regimes, determined by the bromeliad ability in taking up nutrients from the water and by the total amount of light entering the tank. We concluded that predicted climate changes might promote regime shifts in tropical aquatic ecosystems by shaping their structure and the relative importance of other regulating factors.

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