, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 528–537

Genetic Identity of Populus tremuloides Litter Influences Decomposition and Nutrient Release in a Mixed Forest Stand

  • Michael Madritch
  • Jack R. Donaldson
  • Richard L. Lindroth


Recent research has shown that genetic variation can directly impact community and ecosystem level processes. Populus tremuloides (trembling aspen) is an extremely widespread and genetically diverse tree species important to many North American forest ecosystems. Using leaf litter from five genotypes grown in a common garden under two nutrient treatments, we tracked litter decomposition in a natural aspen stand for 1 year. Here we show that aspen leaf litter decomposes and releases carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur in relation to its genetic identity. In a secondary experiment, we show that the genetic diversity of aspen litter mixtures can influence decomposition, however weakly so. Overall, nutrient treatments influenced leaf litter decomposition the most, followed by genetic identity, and then by genetic diversity (if at all in some cases). In this widespread, genetically diverse, and dominant species, genetic variation within a single species is important to ecosystem functioning. The relatively weak effect of genetic diversity on the processes measured here does not preclude its importance to ecosystem functioning, but does suggest that genetic identity and composition are more important than genetic diversity per se.


genotype tannin intraspecific genetic variation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Madritch
    • 1
  • Jack R. Donaldson
    • 1
  • Richard L. Lindroth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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