de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Evaluating the effect of macroinvertebrate exclusion on leaf breakdown rates in two upland Colombian streams

Bladimir Zúñiga-Céspedes, María Del Carmen Zúñiga, Julián Chará



Macroinvertebrate shredders have been widely recognized as an important functional feeding group that contributes to leaf decomposition in temperate streams, but little is known about their role in upland Neotropical streams. In this study, we investigated the effect of macroinvertebrate exclusion on leaf breakdown rates in two upland streams (Marianela and Peña Bonita with 1 911 and 2 560 m elevation, respectively) in Colombia. We hypothesized that leaf litter breakdown is mediated mainly by macroinvertebrate shredders in Colombian upland streams. The study was carried out between January and April of 2009, including the dry season and the beginning of the wet season. We measured leaf mass loss using coarse- (15 mm; accessible to macroinvertebrates) and fine- (200 µm; macroinvertebrates excluded) mesh litter bags that were anchored with wood stakes to the bottom of each stream and recovered after 7, 14, 21, 28, and 56 days. We selected leaves from two dominant plant species and used three leaf treatments: two single species (Palicourea cuatrecasasii and Critoniopsis ursicola) and mixed-species (P. cuatrecasasii and C. ursicola). We compared leaf breakdown rates between the Peña Bonita and Marianela stream, mesh-sizes, and leaf treatments. Macroinvertebrates that colonized the litter bags were measured for density and biomass and categorized in functional feeding groups. In general, there were no significant differences in breakdown rates between the streams and the mesh-sizes. In contrast, leaf breakdown rates had significant differences between all leaf species, where C. ursicola had higher breakdown rates than mixed-species, and P. cuatrecasasii. Macroinvertebrate exclusion did not affect leaf breakdown rates and their assemblages were composed by high densities of collectors (mainly Chironomidae) and few shredders with a large body size. The similar macroinvertebrate colonization between leaf species, the relatively slow breakdown rates, and the shredder scarcity, suggest that leaves were a refractory substrate. Further studies should include leaf species with different nutritional qualities and larger spatial-temporal scales to test the hypothesis of shredder presence and its role on leaf decomposition in upland Colombian streams.


Leaf breakdown rates; functional feeding groups; shredders; tropical streams.


Antonelli, A., & Sanmartín, I. (2011). Why are there so many plant species in the Neotropics? Taxon, 60(2), 403-414.

Arsuffi, T. L., & Suberkropp, K. (1989). Selective feeding by shredders on leaf-colonizing stream fungi: comparison of macroinvertebrate taxa. Oecologia, 79(1), 30-37.

Bärlocher, F. (2005). Leaf mass loss estimated by litter bag technique. In M. A. S. Graça, F. Bärlocher, & M. O. Gessner (Eds.), Methods to study litter decomposition: a practical guide (pp. 37-42). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Blanco, J. F., & Gutiérrez-Isaza, N. (2014). Leaf litter mass loss rates and associated fauna of tree species commonly used in neotropical riparian reforestation. Acta Biológica Colombiana, 19(1), 91-100.

Boyero, L., Pearson, R. G., Dudgeon, D., Ferreira, V., Graça, M. A. S., Gessner, M. O., … Barmuta, L. A. (2012). Global patterns of stream detritivore distribution: implications for biodiversity loss in changing climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21(2), 134-141.

Chará, J., Baird, D., Telfer, T., & Giraldo, L. (2007). A comparative study of leaf breakdown of three native tree species in a slowly-flowing headwater stream in the Colombian Andes. International Review of Hydrobiology, 92(2), 183-198.

Chará-Serna, A. M., Chará, J. D., Zúñiga, M. del C., Pearson, R. G., & Boyero, L. (2012). Diets of leaf litter-associated invertebrates in three tropical streams. Annales de Limnologie - International Journal of Limnology, 48(2), 139-144.

Cummins, K. W., Petersen, R. C., Howard, F. O., Wuycheck, J. C., & Holt, V. I. (1973). The utilization of leaf litter by stream detritivores. Ecology, 54(2), 336-345.

Cummins, K. W., & Klug, M. J. (1979). Feeding ecology of stream invertebrates. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 10(1), 147-172.

Dangles, O., Guerold, F., & Usseglio-Polatera, P. (2001). Role of transported particulate organic matter in the macroinvertebrate colonization of litter bags in streams. Freshwater Biology, 46(5), 575-586.

Domínguez, E., & Fernández, H. R. (2009). Macroinvertebrados bentónicos sudamericanos: sistemática y biología. Tucumán, Argentina: Fundación Miguel Lillo.

Encalada, A. C., Calles, J., Ferreira, V., Canhoto, C. M., & Graça, M. A. S. (2010). Riparian land use and the relationship between the benthos and litter decomposition in tropical montane streams. Freshwater Biology, 55, 1719-1733.

Eyes-Escalante, M. D. C., Rodríguez-Barrios, J. A., & Gutiérrez-Moreno, L. C. (2012). Descomposición de la hojarasca y su relación con los macroinvertebrados acuáticos del río Gaira (Santa Marta-Colombia). Acta Biológica Colombiana, 17, 77-92.

Fisher, S. G., & Likens, G. E. (1973). Energy flow in Bear Brook, New Hampshire: an integrative approach to stream ecosystem metabolism. Ecological Monographs, 43(4), 421-439.

Gessner, M. O., Chauvet, E., & Dobson, M. (1999). A perspective on leaf litter breakdown in streams. Oikos, 85(2), 377-384.

Graça, M. A. S., Cressa, C., Gessner, T. M. O., Feio, M. J., Callies, K. A., & Barrios, C. (2001). Food quality, feeding preferences, survival and growth of shredders from temperate and tropical streams. Freshwater Biology, 46(7), 947-957.

Graça, M. A. S., & Cressa, C. (2010). Leaf quality of some tropical and temperate tree species as food resource for stream shredders. International Review of Hydrobiology, 95(1), 27-41.

Handa, I. T., Aerts, R., Berendse, F., Berg, M. P., Bruder, A., Butenschoen, O., … McKie, B. G. (2014). Consequences of biodiversity loss for litter decomposition across biomes. Nature, 509, 218-221.

Irons, J. G., Oswood, M. W., Stout, R., & Pringle, C. M. (1994). Latitudinal patterns in leaf litter breakdown: is temperature really important? Freshwater Biology, 32(2), 401-411.

Jabiol, J., Cornut, J., Danger, M., Jouffroy, M., Elger, A., & Chauvet, E. (2014). Litter identity mediates predator impacts on the functioning of an aquatic detritus-based food web. Oecologia, 176(1), 225-235.

Jacobsen, D., Schultz, R., & Encalada, A. (1997). Structure and diversity of stream invertebrate assemblages: the influence of temperature with altitude and latitude. Freshwater Biology, 38(2), 247-261.

Jacobsen, D. (2003). Altitudinal changes in diversity of macroinvertebrates from small streams in the Ecuadorian Andes. Archiv für Hydrobiologie, 158(2), 145-167.

Kier, G., Mutke, J., Dinerstein, E., Ricketts, T. H., Küper, W., Kreft, H., & Barthlott, W. (2005). Global patterns of plant diversity and floristic knowledge: Global plant diversity. Journal of Biogeography, 32(7), 1107-1116.

Kominoski, J. S., Pringle, C. M., Ball, B. A., Bradford, M. A., Coleman, D. C., Hall, D. B., & Hunter, M. D. (2007). Nonadditive effects of leaf litter species diversity on breakdown dynamics in a detritus-based stream. Ecology, 88, 1167-1176.

Leroy, C. J., & Marks, J. C. (2006). Litter quality, stream characteristics and litter diversity influence decomposition rates and macroinvertebrates. Freshwater Biology, 51(4), 605-617.

Lewis, W. (2008). Physical and chemical features of tropical flowing waters. In D. Dudgeon (Ed.), Tropical stream ecology (pp. 1-22). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier Inc.

Longo, M., & Blanco, J. F. (2014). Shredders are abundant and species-rich in tropical continental-island low-order streams: Gorgona Island, Tropical Eastern Pacific, Colombia. Revista de Biología Tropical, 62(1), 85-105.

Mathuriau, C., & Chauvet, E. (2002). Breakdown of leaf litter in a neotropical stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 21(3), 384-396.

Petersen, R. C., & Cummins, K. W. (1974). Leaf processing in a woodland stream. Freshwater Biology, 4(4), 343-368.

Posada-García, J. A., & Roldán-Pérez, G. (2003). Clave ilustrada y diversidad de las larvas de Trichoptera en el Noroccidente de Colombia. Caldasia, 25(1), 169-192.

Rincón, J., & Martínez, I. (2006). Food quality and feeding preferences of Phylloicus sp. (Trichoptera: Calamoceratidae). Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25(1), 209-215.

Rincón, J., & Covich, A. (2014). Effects of insect and decapod exclusion and leaf litter species identity on breakdown rates in a tropical headwater stream. Revista De Biología Tropical, 62, 143.

Rueda-Delgado, G., Wantzen, K. M., & Tolosa, M. B. (2006). Leaf-litter decomposition in an Amazonian floodplain stream: effects of seasonal hydrological changes. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25(1), 233-249.

Sanpera-Calbet, I., Lecerf, A., & Chauvet, E. (2009). Leaf diversity influences in-stream litter decomposition through effects on shredders. Freshwater Biology, 54(8), 1671-1682.

Swan, C. M., & Palmer, M. A. (2004). Leaf diversity alters litter breakdown in a Piedmont stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 23(1), 15-28.

Swan, C. M., & Palmer, M. A. (2006). Composition of speciose leaf litter alters stream detritivore growth, feeding activity and leaf breakdown. Oecologia, 147(3), 469-478.

Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales (UAESPNN). (2005). Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, a través de sus planes de manejo. Bogotá, Colombia: Panamericana Editores.

Vannote, R. L., Minshall, G. W., Cummins, K. W., Sedell, J. R., & Cushing, C. E. (1980). The river continuum concept. Cannadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 37(1), 130-137.

Villegas, B. (2006). Colombia: Parques Nacionales Naturales. Bogotá, Colombia: Villegas Editores.

Wallace, J. B., Eggert, S. L., Meyer, J. L., & Webster, J. R. (2015). Stream invertebrate productivity linked to forest subsidies: 37 stream‐years of reference and experimental data. Ecology, 96(5), 1213-1228.

Wantzen, K. M., & Wagner, R. (2006). Detritus processing by invertebrate shredders: a neotropical-temperate comparison. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25(1), 216-232.

Webster, J. R., & Benfield, E. F. (1986). Vascular plant breakdown in freshwater ecosystems. Annual review of ecology and systematics, 17(1), 567-594.

Webster, J. R., Benfield, E. F., Ehrman, T. P., Schaeffer, M. A., Tank, J. L., Hutchens, J. J., & D’angelo, D. J. (1999). What happens to allochthonous material that falls into streams? A synthesis of new and published information from Coweeta. Freshwater Biology, 41(4), 687-705.

Yule, C. M., Leong, M. Y., Liew, K. C., Ratnarajah, L., Schmidt, K., Wong, H. M., … Boyero, L. (2009). Shredders in Malaysia: abundance and richness are higher in cool upland tropical streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 28(2), 404-415.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

© 2017 Universidad de Costa Rica. Para ver más detalles sobre la distribución de los artículos en este sitio visite el aviso legal. Este sitio es desarrollado por UCRIndex y Open Journal Systems. ¿Desea cosechar nuestros metadatos? dirección OAI-PMH: