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After the fall: how changes in temperate forests alter wetland communities

Stoler, Aaron (2013) After the fall: how changes in temperate forests alter wetland communities. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The composition of species is continually shifting due to natural succession, disturbance, and human influences. Predicting effects of these changes requires understanding species interactions, phenotypic traits responsible these interaction, and general relationships between diversity and ecological processes. In this thesis, I explore how changes in temperate forest tree composition alter processes within forest wetland ecosystems, the chemical traits of litter responsible for these effects, and general relationships between litter diversity and ecological processes.

Forest wetlands often receive massive amounts of tree leaf litter, and contain diverse food webs that recycle energy and nutrients within litter into myriad inorganic and organic forms. In the first study, I hypothesized that the abiotic and biological components of forest wetlands respond to changes in the input of tree leaf litter species. I provided different litter species to wetland communities in outdoor mesocosms, using ten common deciduous tree litter species. Effects were dramatic, including variation in the biomass, density, and survival of consumers. In this study, I also demonstrate that several traits of litter explain much of the variation in these effects. In the second study, I hypothesized that variation in litter inputs also induce phenotypic changes in consumer development and morphology. Using wood frogs as a model species, I found that variation in litter species alters development rate and several morphological features, such as tail length, mouth size, and gut length. In the third study, I hypothesized that variation in litter inputs alters predator-prey interactions by changing the chemical and physical structure of wetland ecosystems. The results of this study suggest that interactions between litter resources and top-down interactions should be considered to accurately predict the consequences of shifting litter species composition. In the final study, I hypothesized that a general, positive relationship exists between litter chemical trait diversity and wetland consumer biomass. I found strong effects of trait diversity on decomposition rate, but no effects across a diverse array of consumer species. This suggests that wetland communities – although responsive to changes in single litter species chemistry – respond positively to increased litter species richness and may be resistant to fluctuations of litter chemical diversity.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stoler, Aaronabs45@pitt.eduABS45
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberTraw, Brianmbtraw@pitt.eduMBTRAW
Committee ChairRelyea, Rickrelyea@pitt.eduRELYEA
Committee MemberGrabe, Michaelmdgrabe@pitt.eduMDGRABE
Committee MemberCarson, Waltcarson@pitt.eduCARSON
Committee MemberVanni,
Date: 2 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 March 2013
Approval Date: 2 July 2013
Submission Date: 17 April 2013
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 228
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Biological Sciences
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: amphibians, aquatic refuge, aquatic subsidies, aquatic-terrestrial linkage, benthic structure, biodiversity, decomposition, detritivores, ecosystem function, ephemeral pond, gut length, lignin, litter chemistry, mouthpart size, phenolics, resource-induced plasticity, resource subsidies, selection effects, snails, temperate forests, wetlands, zooplankton
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2013 15:21
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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