Plant Litter Decay Affected by Climate Change

Due to the global warming, certain insects, bacteria, and fungi may not be increasing in terms of population as expected. Turns out temperature changes affected these little inhabitants drastically.

Normally, certain insects, bacteria, and fungi that consume plant litter inhabit in rivers and streams. These are good kinds of litters as they help remove toxins from rivers. As a result, the bacteria convert oxygen and nutrients into energy and carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere, and the cycle continues as the leaf litter decay.

According to a research, temperature does not have a direct correlation with the micro-organisms’ ability to convert food into energy and thus, release carbon dioxide into air. This new study proves wrong the long believed idea that increasing temperatures would increase leaf litter decay. Turns out, this is not the case.

So, scientists decided to take action to understand the plant litter ecosystem better. This will help them the further effects of climate change on micro-organisms. John Kominoski, a Florida International University biologist, said:

“If you have a reliable source of energy for organisms in an ecosystem, like the energy provided by consuming leaf litter, the communities of animals and plants living there will be more persistent. Since global temperatures are rising and leaf litter decay is not as sensitive to temperature as once believed, it gives us hope ecosystems won’t be as energy-limited as we had thought.”

The research team calculated that the rates of the plant litter decay in rivers might increase 5-21 percent if water temperatures rise by 1-5 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, they also realized that temperature does not hold the only factor on consumption activities. Kominoski said that commercial and recreational fisheries have a huge effect on leaf litter decay and other organic matter that keeps the marine life healthy.

The effect of climate change to plant litter decay may not be as effective and significant as the ice caps melting, but it is still an important factor that can affect the health of rivers and streams.

[via phys]

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