Metabolism of a tropical rainforest stream
Gradients in photosynthesis (P) and respiration (R) were measured on an unperturbed portion of the Rio Mameyes, a tropical stream in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, northeastern Puerto Rico. Rates of P, which were similar to those of streams in temperate-deciduous forests, were low in the heavily canopied headwaters (<70 g O2 m−2 y−1) and were higher (453–634 g O2 m−2 y−1) in middle and lower reaches. Periphyton biomass did not show the expected increase as the canopy opened downstream, probably because of increasing herbivory in downstream reaches. Rates of R, which were much higher than in most temperate streams, also were lower in the headwaters (767 g O2 m−2 y−1) than in the middle and lower reaches (1550–1660 g O2 m−2 y−1). High rates of R and suppressed periphyton abundance caused annual P/R to be <<1 from headwaters to lower reaches. Results for the Rio Mameyes suggest that intense herbivory, which is favored by the presence of large herbivores and consistently high temperatures, may be more typical of tropical than temperate streams. Results also show that the tropical rainforest provides the stream with sufficient amounts of labile organic C to support high rates of respiration over long distances across the basin.