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Community complexity and decomposition process in aquatic systems: an ecosystem approach to manage biodiversity


The project addresses the integration of process-oriented and population-community approaches to asses the role of biodiversity in detritus processing based ecosystems. The main purpose is to establish a scientific basic procedure for the biodiversity and habitat management in inland aquatic ecosystems. The relationships between biodiversity, community assembly rules, food web patterns, nutrient flows and detritus processing will be investigated, through space and time, in rivers, lakes and lagoons in five significant areas of Western Europe.

The project provides studies in the field, in mesocosms and in laboratory, addressing some basic ecological questions:

(1) how is biodiversity related to detritus processing in aquatic systems characterized by different typologies?

(2) Are decay rates of plant detritus related to community complexity and stability, as measured by food web patterns?

(3) How does disturbance affect biodiversity and decomposition processes? Does the effect scale with disturbance strength?

(4) Are temporal variations of detritus dacay rates affected by the fractal dimension (Perimeter/Area) of the habitat and can it be used as measure of habitat vulnerability?

Expected results have to meet the following milestones:

i. the quantitative relationships among biodiversity, decomposition processes and intra-habitat spatial distribution of the process rates;
ii. the rule of disturbance on processes, biodiversity, community organization and on the complexity of tri-trophic food webs;
iii. the relationships between decay rates and decay efficiency, on the one hand, and community and food web organization, and food web stability, on the other hand;

iv. the geo-statistical mapping of the intra-habitat variations of processes, diversity and complexity and a comparison among the patterns observed in the different habitat typologies.

All partners will address at local and regional scale, intra and inter-habitat comparisons of disturbed and undisturbed habitats within the same experimental design. Exchanges of scientists among the partners will improve the respective performances allowing the same taxonomic resolution in the community studies and the application of the same methodology to the different study habitat. The investigations will produce results that on the one hand will improve the actual knowledge on the mechanisms of plant decomposition and food webs in donor control systems, and on the other hand they will supply a useful tool for the management of biodiversity in the inland aquatic systems through EU.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze del Mare
Via Lancisi 29
00161 Roma

Participants (4)

C/o Universidade De Coimbra - Departaments Of Zool
3000 Coimbra
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek
1780 AB Den Helder
645,Avinguda Diagonal 645
08028 Barcelona
Università degli Studi di Cagliari
Viale Poetto 1
09100 Cagliari