, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 96-102

Decomposition rates of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and Lyngbyei’s sedge (Carex lyngbyei) in the Fraser River estuary

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Using litter bag experiments in the Fraser River estuary in British Columbia, we tested for differences in the relative decomposition rates between leaves of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), an introduced exotic and a native sedge (Carex lyngbyei). The difference in the mean decay rate coefficient for the two species was significantly defferent (p<0.01) and the coefficient for purple loosestrife (0.0110 d−1) was nearly four times higher than for Lyngbyei's sedge (0.0028 d−1). This is the first estimate of the decay rate coefficient for purple loosestrife from an estuary. The rapid decay rate of loosestrife leaves suggests that they supply detritus to the ecosystem in autumn whereas the much slower decay rate of sedge implies that it supplies detritus throughout the winter and early spring. Consumer organisms important in juvenile salmon food webs appear to be adapted to take advantage of the detritus provided in these seasons. The findings have implications for habitat management because purple loosestrife has recently invaded estuaries of the northeast Pacific and may be outcompeting native sedges important in detrital-based food webs.