, Volume 335, Issue 1-2, pp 289-298
Date: 12 May 2010

Correlation between leaf litter and fine root decomposition among subtropical tree species

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Abstract

Elucidating the processes of leaf litter and fine root decomposition has been a major research focus, while how the correlation between leaf litter and fine root decomposition is unclear. We studied the in situ decomposition and N dynamics of leaf litter and fine root of four subtropical tree species (Pinus massoniana, Castanopsis hystrix, Michelia macclurei and Mytilaria laosensis) to determine whether leaf litter and fine root decomposition is correlated across species as well as which factors influence decomposition above versus below ground. Decomposition rate of leaf litter was related to that of fine root across species. The strong correlation between leaf litter and fine root decomposition rates arose largely for several reasons. First, soil moisture had the similar influences on both leaf litter and fine root decomposition rates. Second, traits (i.e., initial Ca concentration) important to both leaf litter and fine root decomposition rates showed significant similarity among species. Third, initial P, N and aromatic C concentrations, and C/N ratio were uniquely important for fine root decomposition rate, while no unique traits for leaf litter decomposition rate. This also could account for the strong correlation between leaf litter and fine root decomposition rates. Our study suggests that among these subtropical trees, species effects on in situ decomposition rates of leaf litter and fine root are very similar. Thus, species differences in decomposition rates may be as large as they would be if faster decomposition of leaf litter was correlated with faster decomposition of fine root. N immobilization rate of leaf litter was unrelated to that of fine root across species. Our results help explain some important mechanisms by which tree species influence litter in situ decomposition.

Responsible Editor: Alfonso Escudero.