Species and genetic diversity of leaf litter affect its decomposition in subtropical broadleaved forest in southern China

Created at: 2016-11-03

Envisaged journal: Journal of Plant Ecology

Envisaged date: 2016-11-03


Litter decomposition is a fundamental process of ecosystem functioning, which is largely dependent on biodiversity of the ecosystems. We explored the effects of species diversity and genetic diversity of litter on its decomposition rate.
We used laboratory microcosms to determine whether species diversity and genetic diversity of leaf litter or their interaction affect its decomposition. We set 8 treatments which contain 1, 2, 4 diversity levels of four broad-leaf species (Alniphyllum fortunei、Idesia polycarpa、Cinnamomum camphora、Daphniphyllum oldhamii) and genetic diversity. All litter samples were taken back to the laboratory, and oven-dried. Total 246 containers were stored in the dark at 25℃ for 12 weeks. Important findings
The effect of litter species diversity on litter decomposition was largely dependent on species composition of the litter mixture in terms of species identity. Overall, the decomposition rate increases linearly with the seed family richness when the species identity was neglected. However, no interactive effect of species diversity and genetic diversity on mass loss was detected. Litter
decomposition rate was found to be unrelated to the initial C, while negatively correlated with the initial total N and N:P ratio. However, the regression curve of litter decomposition rate against total P and C:N ratio displayed quadratic parabola opening upward and downward respectively. This study demonstrated the importance of species and/or genetic diversity and composition of litter per se during its decomposition, and also stressed the effects of litter chemistry. Further studies should be done in longer term to ascertain how such effects work and how they change during decomposition process, especially in response to various composition and diversity of surrounding plants.


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Calculated Authors

Yuewei Tong Zhengweng Wang

Data request state

Preparation Project Board Finished