A global analysis of terrestrial plant litter dynamics in non-perennial waterways Academic Article uri icon


  • Perennial rivers and streams make a disproportionate contribution to global carbon (C) cycling. However, the contribution of intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES), which sometimes cease to flow and can dry completely, is largely ignored although they represent over half the global river network. Substantial amounts of terrestrial plant litter (TPL) accumulate in dry riverbeds and, upon rewetting, this material can undergo rapid microbial processing. We present the results of a global research collaboration that collected and analysed TPL from 212 dry riverbeds across major environmental gradients and climate zones. We assessed litter decomposability by quantifying the litter carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and oxygen (O 2) consumption in standardized assays and estimated the potential short-term CO 2 emissions during rewetting events. Aridity, cover of riparian vegetation, channel width and dry-phase...


publication date

  • May 21, 2018