Effects of plant species on stream bacterial communities via leachate from leaf litter
Leaf litter provides an important resource to forested stream ecosystems. During leaf fall a significant amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) enters streams as leaf leachate. We compared the effects of plant species and leaf leachate bioavailability on the composition of stream bacterial communities and rates of DOC decomposition. We used four common riparian tree species that varied in foliar chemistry, leachate optical properties, and litter decomposition rate. We used laboratory microcosms from two streams and amended with a standard concentration of DOC derived from leaf leachate of the four tree species. After 24 h, we measured rates of DOC biodegradation and determined the composition of the bacterial communities via bar-coded pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. The composition, diversity, and abundance of the bacterial community differed significantly among plant species from both streams. The phylogenetic distance of the different bacterial communities correlated with species-specific leachate optical properties and rates of DOC biodegradation. Highest rates of DOC decomposition were associated with high tannin and lignin leaf types. Results demonstrate that riparian plant species strongly influences stream bacterial communities via their leachate suggesting that alterations to the presence or abundance of riparian plant taxa may influence these communities and associated ecosystem processes.