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A 5-year study of leaf decomposition in the Ogeechee, a coastal plain river in Georgia.

In a changing climate, descriptive studies in a long-term context are important for understanding stream ecosystem dynamics and management. Leaf breakdown is an ecosystem process that integrates multiple components of the stream and represents a direct or indirect source of food for many organisms. The rate at which leaves decompose depends on the physical and chemical properties of the leaf, microbial and insect activity, and environmental factors (e.g., discharge, temperature, etc.). Long-term data on litter breakdown can help us quantify and elucidate the multiple complex interactions involved in this process. In this study, we present 5 years of data (2012-2016) for water oak (Quercus nigra) leaf decomposition at a single site in the Lower Ogeechee River. Our goal is to assess the effects of discharge, temperature, and macroinvertebrate assemblage in a long-term context. Preliminary results reveal that 2012, a year following an extensive drought (>1 yr), to differ in leaf decomposition rates from consequent years. Factors that potentially explain these differences include differences in abundance, diversity, and functional groups of colonizing invertebrates, as well as differences in discharge and temperature.

Jose Sanchez (Primary Presenter/Author), University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras,;

V. Byron Collins ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Georgia Southern University ,;

Checo Colon-Gaud ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Georgia Southern University,;