Decomposition of duckweed (Lemna gibba) under axenic and microbial conditions: Flux of nutrients between litter water and sediment, the impact of leaching and microbial degradation

S´andor Szabo, Mih´ly Braun, P´eter Nagy, S´andor Balazsy, Otto Reisinger

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The decomposition of axenic Lemna gibba has been studied over a 200 day period under laboratory conditions in the presence and absence of wastewater micro-organisms. The residual mass of plant litter in the decomposition vessels decreased three times more rapidly under biotic than abiotic conditions. The organic matter in the duckweed litter lost about half its weight within 67.9 days in the presence of micro-organisms while more than 200 days were required in axenic vessels. In the former case, AFDW loss followed an exponential pattern of decay. The rate constant was 0.0102 day-1 and the decay was virtually complete after 200 days. The C and K concentration of the remaining duckweed litter decreased; the N, Ca, Fe and B concentration increased in both treatments. The concentration of total N, P, K, Mg, and Mo increased in the receiving water in both treatments but was much higher under biotic than abiotic conditions. Mass balances of nutrients in the vessels and flux of these nutrients between compartments in the vessels (duckweed litter, water and sediment) have been determined. Under axenic conditions the release of elements was very slow. Only notably potassium leaching had occurred. Leaching of potassium, magnesium and organic carbon took place mainly during the first term of incubation and then slowed down. Under biotic decomposition the elemental content of the litter decreased by more than 50% over 43 days for K, 53 days for Mo, 64 days for C, 81 days for Mg, 101 days for S, 104 days for P, 108 days for Na, 111 days for N, 140 days for B. Calcium and iron immobilised in the litter. Most of the released N, S, P, K, Mg and Mo remained in the water, but B and Mn settled into the sediment. The result of the investigation demonstrated that the nutrient flux from decomposing duckweed litter is mainly a microbially mediated process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-210
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2000



  • Decomposition
  • Leaching
  • Lemna gibba
  • Micro-organisms
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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