, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1322–1329 | Cite as

Evidence for mild sediment Pb contamination affecting leaf-litter decomposition in a lake

  • Andrew Y. Oguma
  • Paul L. Klerks


Much work has focused on the effects of metal-contaminated sediment on benthic community structure, but effects on ecosystem functions have received far less attention. Decomposition has been widely used as an integrating metric of ecosystem function in lotic systems, but not for lentic ones. We assessed the relationship between low-level sediment lead (Pb) contamination and leaf-litter decomposition in a lentic system. We measured 30-day weight loss in 30 litter-bags that were deployed along a Pb-contamination gradient in a cypress-forested lake. At each deployment site we also quantified macrobenthos abundance, dissolved oxygen, water depth, sediment organic content, sediment silt/clay content, and both total sediment and porewater concentrations of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn. Principal components (PC) analysis revealed a negative relationship between Pb concentration and benthic macroinvertebrate abundance, and this covariation dominated the first PC axis (PC1). Subsequent correlation analyses revealed a negative relationship between PC1 and percent leaf-litter loss. Our results indicate that leaf-litter decomposition was related to sediment Pb and benthic macroinvertebrate abundance. They also showed that ecosystem function may be affected even where sediment Pb concentrations are mostly below threshold-effects sediment quality guidelines—a finding with potential implications for sediment risk assessment. Additionally, the litter-bag technique used in this study showed promise as a tool in risk assessments of metal-contaminated sediments in lentic systems.


Decomposition Leaf litter Lead Sediment metal Ecological integrity 



This work was funded with student grants from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Graduate Student Organization, and the Ecology Center of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. We thank Marvin “Trey” Mace III for assistance with field work, and Dr. Paul Leberg for advice on statistical analyses.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest regarding this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Division of Science and Mathematics, Department of BiologyMassasoit Community CollegeBrocktonUSA

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