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Review

Organic Matter Decomposition and Ecosystem Metabolism as Tools to Assess the Functional Integrity of Streams and Rivers–A Systematic Review

1
Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre—MARE, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3000–456 Coimbra, Portugal
2
Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), P.O. Box 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain
3
Department of Biological Sciences, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309, USA
4
Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Institut de Recerca de l’Aigua (IdRA), University of Barcelona, Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
5
Cawthron Institute, Private Bag 2, Nelson 7042, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2020, 12(12), 3523; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123523
Received: 4 November 2020 / Revised: 7 December 2020 / Accepted: 8 December 2020 / Published: 15 December 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
Streams and rivers provide important services to humans, and therefore, their ecological integrity should be a societal goal. Although ecological integrity encompasses structural and functional integrity, stream bioassessment rarely considers ecosystem functioning. Organic matter decomposition and ecosystem metabolism are prime candidate indicators of stream functional integrity, and here we review each of these functions, the methods used for their determination, and their strengths and limitations for bioassessment. We also provide a systematic review of studies that have addressed organic matter decomposition (88 studies) and ecosystem metabolism (50 studies) for stream bioassessment since the year 2000. Most studies were conducted in temperate regions. Bioassessment based on organic matter decomposition mostly used leaf litter in coarse-mesh bags, but fine-mesh bags were also common, and cotton strips and wood were frequent in New Zealand. Ecosystem metabolism was most often based on the open-channel method and used a single-station approach. Organic matter decomposition and ecosystem metabolism performed well at detecting environmental change (≈75% studies), with performances varying between 50 and 100% depending on the type of environmental change; both functions were sensitive to restoration practices in 100% of the studies examined. Finally, we provide examples where functional tools are used to complement the assessments of stream ecological integrity. With this review, we hope to facilitate the widespread incorporation of ecosystem processes into bioassessment programs with the broader aim of more effectively managing stream and river ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: cotton strip assay; ecosystem functioning; ecosystem respiration; gross primary production; leaf litter; methods; stream health; net ecosystem productivity; systematic map; wood cotton strip assay; ecosystem functioning; ecosystem respiration; gross primary production; leaf litter; methods; stream health; net ecosystem productivity; systematic map; wood
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ferreira, V.; Elosegi, A.; D. Tiegs, S.; von Schiller, D.; Young, R. Organic Matter Decomposition and Ecosystem Metabolism as Tools to Assess the Functional Integrity of Streams and Rivers–A Systematic Review. Water 2020, 12, 3523. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123523

AMA Style

Ferreira V, Elosegi A, D. Tiegs S, von Schiller D, Young R. Organic Matter Decomposition and Ecosystem Metabolism as Tools to Assess the Functional Integrity of Streams and Rivers–A Systematic Review. Water. 2020; 12(12):3523. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123523

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ferreira, Verónica; Elosegi, Arturo; D. Tiegs, Scott; von Schiller, Daniel; Young, Roger. 2020. "Organic Matter Decomposition and Ecosystem Metabolism as Tools to Assess the Functional Integrity of Streams and Rivers–A Systematic Review" Water 12, no. 12: 3523. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123523

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