Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 30, pp 30720–30727 | Cite as

Effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and associated acidity on ecosystem functioning: response of leaf litter breakdown

  • Wenting Wu
  • Yixin ZhangEmail author
Short Research and Discussion Article


Particulate matter (PM2.5 with the diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) as one of the most harmful and complex pollutants can reduce environment quality and affect human health. Through acidification by wet deposition, PM2.5 can cause acid rain to impact aquatic ecosystems. However, our understanding of PM2.5 effect on ecosystem functioning is highly limited. This study investigated the relationship between PM2.5 concentration, associated acidity, and leaf litter breakdown of three tree species in laboratory experimental mesocosms, which are weeping willow (Salix babylonica), camphor tree(Cinnamomum camphora), and the south magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). We found that leaf litter breakdown was significant affected by PM2.5 and associated acidity. With the increase of acidity, the leaf breakdown rate of all three tree species decreased. With the increase of PM2.5 concentration, the leaf breakdown rates of those leaves slowed down. When considering the influence of leaf toughness, willow leaves with lower toughness had a higher breakdown rate than that of camphor tree and the south magnolia. Our study suggests that PM2.5 has significant impact on the aquatic ecosystem functioning through increasing acidification in aquatic environment. Hence, along with ecological restoration of local aquatic habitats, further freshwater ecosystem management should include reducing air pollution through regional efforts of best ecosystem management.


Aquatic ecosystems Atmospheric pollution Wet depositions Acidification Organic matter decomposition China 



We thank Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University for the financial and equipment support for the experiment. We also thank many students for their valuable helps in the field and laboratory.

Funding information

This study was supported by Research Development Fund Project of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (RDF-15-01-50) and Huai'an Science & Technology Bureau (HAN2015022).


  1. Behera SN, Betha R, Liu P, Balasubramanian R (2013) A study of diurnal variations of PM2.5 acidity and related chemical species using a new thermodynamic equilibrium model. Sci Total Environ 452-453(5):286–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boulton AJ, Boon PI (1991) A review of methodology used to measure leaf litter decomposition in lotic environments: time to turn over an old leaf. Aust J Mar Freshwat Res 42(1):1–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chestnut LG, Mills DM (2005) A fresh look at the benefits and costs of the US acid rain program. J Environ Manag 77(3):252–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dangles O, Guerold F (2001) Influence of shredders in mediating breakdown rates of beech leaves in circumneutral and acidic forest streams. Archiv Fur Hydrobiologie 151(4):649–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dangles O, Gessner MO, Guerold F, Chauvet E (2004) Impact of stream acidification on litter breakdown: implication for assessing ecosystem functioning. J Appl Ecol 41(2):365–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Driscoll CT, Lawrence GB, Bulger AJ et al (2001) Acidic deposition in the Northeastern United States: sources and inputs, ecosystem effects, and management strategies[J]. Bioscience 51(3):180–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Du WJ, Zhang YR, Chen YT, Xu LL, Chen JS, Deng JJ, Hong YW, Hang X (2017) Chemical characterization and source apportionment of PM2.5 during spring and winter in the Yangtze River Delta, China. Aerosol Air Qual Res 17(9):2165–2180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duarte S, Pascoal C, Cássio F, Bärlocher F (2006) Aquatic hyphomycete diversity and identity affect leaf litter decomposition in microcosms. Oecologia 147(4):658–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fu XX, Huo H, Wang XM, Ding D, He QF, Liu TY, Zhang Z (2015) PM2.5 acidity at a background site in the Pearl River Delta region in fall-winter of 2007–2012. Journal of Hazardous Material 286:484–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gessner MO, Chauvet E (2002) A case for using litter breakdown to assess functional stream integrity. Ecol Appl 12(2):498–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gessner MO, Swan CM, Dang CK, Mckie BG, Bardgett RD, Wall DH, Hattenschwiler S (2010) Diversity meets decomposition. Trends Ecol Evol 256(6):372–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Graca MAS (2001) The role of invertebrates on leaf litter decomposition in streams—a review. Int Rev Hydrobiol 86:383–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haines TA (1981) Acidic precipitation and its consequences for aquatic ecosystems: a review. Trans Am Fish Soc 110(6):669–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. He KB, Huo H, Zhang Q (2002) Urban air pollution in China: current status, characteristics, and progress. Annu Rev Energy Environ 27:397–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. He K, Zhao Q, Ma Y, Duan F, Yang F, Shi Z, Chen G (2012) Spatial and seasonal variability of PM2.5 acidity at two Chinese megacities: insights into the formation of secondary inorganic aerosols. Atmos Chem Phys 11(9):25557–26093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Larssen T, Lydersen E, Tang DG, He Y, Gao JX, Liu HY, Duan L, Seip HM, Vogt RD, Mulder J, Shao M, Wang YH, Shang H, Zhang XS, Solberg S, Aas W, Okland T, Eilertsen O, Angell V, Liu QR, Zhao DW, Xiang RJ, Xiao JS, Luo JH (2006) Acid rain in China. Environ Sci Technol 40:418–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leroy CJ, Marks JC (2006) Litter quality, stream characteristics and litter diversity influence decomposition rates and macroinvertebrates. Freshw Biol 51(4):605–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Li AOY, Ng LCY, Dudgeon D (2009) Effects of leaf toughness and nitrogen content on litter breakdown and macroinvertebrates in a tropical stream. Aquat Sci 71(1):80–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lin ZQ, Gong ZG, Yang DF, Zhao FH (2005) Study progress on PM2.5 pollution characteristics. J Preventive Medicine of Chinese People’s Liberation Army 23:150–152Google Scholar
  20. Meng ZY, Seinfeld JH, Saxena P, Kim YP (1995) Atmospheric gas-aerosol equilibrium: IV. Thermodynamics of carbonates. Aerosol Sci Technol 23(1):131–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Motomori KH, Mitsuhashi H, Nakano S (2001) Influence of leaf litter quality on the colonization and consumption of stream invertebrate shredders. Ecol Res 16(2):173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mulholland PJ, Driscoll CT, Elwood JW et al (1992) Relationships between stream acidity and bacteria, macroinvertebrates, and fish: a comparison of north temperate and south temperate mountain streams, USA[J]. Hydrobiologia 239(1):7–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mulholland PJ, Palumbo AV, Elwood JW, Rosemond AD (1987) Effects of acidification on leaf decomposition in streams. J N Am Benthol Soc 6(3):147–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nenes A, Pandis SN, Pilinis C (1998) ISORROPIA: a new thermodynamic equilibrium model for multiphase multicomponent inorganic aerosols. Aquat Geochem 4(1):123–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Niyogi DK, Lewis WML Jr, Mcknight DM (2001) Litter breakdown in mountain streams affected by mine drainage: biotic mediation of abiotic controls. Ecol Appl 11(2):506–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Olson JS (1963) Energy storage and the balance of producer and decomposers in ecological systems. Ecology 44(2):322–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pathak RK, Yao XH, Alexsis KHL, Chan CK (2003) Acidity and concentration of ionic species of PM2.5 in Hong Kong. Atmos Environ 37(8):1113–1124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pathak RK, Louie PKK, Chan CK (2004) Characteristics of aerosol acidity in Hong Kong. Atmos Environ 38(19):2965–2974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pope CA, Dockery DW (2006) Health effects of fine particulate air pollution: lines that connect. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 56:709–732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quinn JM, Burrell GP, Parkyn SM (2000) Influences of leaf toughness and nitrogen content on in-stream processing and nutrient uptake by litter in Waikato, New Zealand, pasture stream and streamside channels. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 34:253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Royer TV, Minshall GW (2001) Effect of nutrient enrichment and leaf quality on the breakdown of leaves in a hardwater stream. Freshw Biol 46(5):603–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saxena P, Muller PK, Kim YP, Seinfeld JH (1993) Coupling thermodynamic theory with measurement to characterize acidity of atmospheric particle. Aerosol Sci Technol 19(3):279–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Simon KS, Simon MA, Benfield EF (2009) Variation in ecosystem function in Appalachian streams along an acidity gradient. Ecol Appl 19(5):1147–1160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Speizer FE (1989) Studies of acid aerosols in six cities and in new multi-city investigations: design issues. Environ Health Perspect 79(79):61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stout RJ (1989) Effects of condensed tannins on leaf processing in mid-latitude and tropical streams: a theoretical approach. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46(7):1097–1106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tang LJ, Yang JB, Han JJ, Zhao YW, Yuan WH (2011) Analysis of characteristics of acid rain and its relationship to atmospheric environment in Suzhou. Chin J Agrometeorol 32(Supp. 1):74–78 (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  37. Wallace JB, Eggert SL, Meyer JL, Webster JR (1997) Multiple trophic levels of a forest stream linked to terrestrial litter inputs. Science 277(5322):102–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wang X, Ding X, Fu X, He Q, Wang S, Bernard F, Zhao X, Wu D (2012) Aerosol scattering coefficients and major chemical compositions of fine particles observed at a rural site hit the central Pearl River Delta, South China. J Environ Sci–China 24(1):72–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Webster JR, Benfield EF (1986) Vascular plant breakdown in freshwater ecosystems. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 17(17):567–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Woodcock TS, Huryn AD (2005) Leaf litter processing and invertebrate assemblages along a pollution gradient in a Maine USA headwater stream. Environ Pollut 134(3):363–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wu FQ, Xue YY, Yu L, Wu GY, Xu ZY, Wang YC, Shen X, Shen Y (2013) The trend analysis on the change of acid rain in Suzhou City for ten years. Environmental Monitoring and Forewarning 5(4):40–42 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  42. Xue JA, Lau KH, Yu JZ (2011) A study of acidity on PM2.5 in Hong Kong using online ionic chemical composition measurements. Atmos Environ 45(39):7081–7088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yao XH, Ling TY, Fang M, Chan CK (2006) Comparison of thermodynamic predictions for in situ pH in PM2.5. Atmos Environ 40(16):2835–2844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yuan Q, Yang LX, Dong C, Yan C (2014) Temporal variations, acidity, and transport patterns of PM2.5 ionic components at a background site in the Yellow River Delta, China. Atmos Health 7(2):143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental ScienceXi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool UniversitySuzhouChina
  2. 2.XJTLU Huai’an Research Institute of New-Type UrbanizationHuai’anChina
  3. 3.XJTLU Suzhou Urban and Environmental Research InstituteSuzhouChina

Personalised recommendations