At the start of the web of life, trees capture and store energy in the form of carbon. Leaves that fall into streams in the uplands are likely very important in the downstream transfer of energy needed for healthy rivers, and healthy seas.
Rather than simply observing changes in the natural world, DURESS conducts experiments to assess the role of river life in regulating water quality and decomposition. We added tonnes of leaf litter to streams to test whether planting more broadleaf trees alongside streams might help invertebrate and microbe communities to grow and prosper. Our results are starting to show that streams can store, as well as transport, significant amounts of energy, especially where broadleaf trees are present. This stored energy fuels productive food webs all year round, despite large fluctuations in rainfall and river flow patterns which could become increasingly common in the future.