Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
1. The effect of light intensity on the decomposition of poplar (Populus nigra) leaves and growth of the shredders, Asellus aquaticus and Gammarus pulex, was studied in a laboratory experiment. The response was studied along a gradient of six light intensities of 0, 5, 23, 54, 97 and 156 μmol m−2 s−1. It was hypothesised that an increase in light intensity would increase growth of shredders, because of an increase of algae (i.e. food quality) in the leaf-biofilm.2. Light intensity affected both leaf-biofilm quality and consumer behaviour and affected several aspects of the decomposition-consumer interaction. In the absence of invertebrates, leaf mass loss was lower in the dark, while light intensity had no significant effect on mass loss of poplar leaf in the presence of invertebrates. Light intensity affected algal biomass, density and composition, and had a significant positive effect on the growth of both shredders.3. Our results suggest that algae can be an important component of the nutritional value of the leaf-biofilm for benthic invertebrates, directly as an additional food source and indirectly through a link with bacteria and/or fungi.4. The River Continuum Concept mainly emphasises allochthonous inputs to headwater streams and autochthonous production further downstream. Our results suggest that light, by its effect on the biofilms on leaf surfaces, might be a more important factor in headwaters than is usually assumed.
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