Climate change and water abstraction may change stream flow from perennial into intermittent lotic systems, modifying their abiotic and biotic benthic environment and impacting ecosystem processes such as nutrient turnover. We conducted a microcosm experiment to investigate the interactive effect of water intermittency, macrofauna and leaf size (Populus nigra
leaves) on nutrient mineralization and recycling. Leaf disks (1 or 5 cm diameter) were incubated for 40 days with or without the leaf-consumer, Potamophylax cingulatus
larvae (Trichoptera, Limnephilidae) and with or without an intervening, 10-days simulation of stream drying and subsequent rewetting. Nutrient fluxes, residual leaf biomass and leaf elemental composition were measured to evaluate how intermittency, macrofauna and leaf size affect organic matter mineralization rates and stoichiometry. Results suggest that drying slows decomposition rates, impacting both the microbial and setting to zero macrofauna activities. The presence of macrofauna increases mineralization and nutrient (C, N and P) regeneration rates. Our findings also suggest that leaf disks with higher diameter display higher microbial activity and NH4+
regeneration. During the experiment, the C:N:P ratios of residual litter changed, as the leaf material became enriched with N and P. Our study suggests that increasingly frequent dry events might slow mineralization rates and downstream nutrient transport.
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