Date of Award
Pechmann, Joseph H.K.
This dissertation addresses the question of how leaf litter from trees affects animals that live in aquatic environments, with an emphasis on the effect of Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) leaf litter on anuran larvae (i.e., frog tadpoles). This question is important to our understanding of how allochthonous inputs to aquatic habitats drive biodiversity in wetlands. It also addresses a timely conservation concern in southeastern Louisiana where invasion by Chinese tallow trees (Triadica sebifera) is displacing native trees. The invasion process is homogenizing forest composition and changing the quantity and quality of litter inputs to ponds from those produced by a mixture of native species to that of a single invasive species. This change in litter quality may have important effects on aquatic animals because leaf litter that falls into ponds is an important source of nutrients and energy in wetland foodwebs. Leaf litter also affects water quality via effects on dissolved oxygen and leaching of defensive compounds, which may subsequently affect the diversity and performance of aquatic animals. Herein I address these issues by presenting a series of studies in which tadpole and aquatic invertebrate responses were tested using leaf litter from Chinese tallow leaves and three native tree species. The major findings of this research are: (1) Leaf litter has a direct effect on water quality (2) Chinese tallow can cause differential survival and performance of tadpoles (3) Differences in water quality due to leaf litter can cause changes in tadpole behavior (4) Chinese tallow leaf litter breaks down much faster than litter from native trees (5) Difference in litter breakdown rates influence aquatic community composition.
Leonard, Norman, "The effects of the invasive exotic Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera) on amphibians and aquatic invertebrates" (2008). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. Paper 656.