Leaf Litter Fuels Methanogenesis Throughout Decomposition in a Forested Peatland
- 385 Downloads
Decomposing leaf litter is a large supply of energy and nutrients for soil microorganisms. How long decaying leaves continue to fuel anaerobic microbial activity in wetland ecosystems is poorly understood. Here, we compare leaf litter from 15 tree species with different growth forms (angiosperms and gymnosperms, deciduous, and longer life span), using litterbags positioned for up to 4 years in a forested peatland in New York State. Periodically, we incubated partially decayed residue per species with fresh soil to assess its ability to fuel microbial methane (CH4) production and concomitant anaerobic carbon dioxide (CO2) production. Decay rates varied by leaf type: deciduous angiosperm > evergreen gymnosperm > deciduous gymnosperm. Decay rates were slower in leaf litter with a large concentration of lignin. Soil with residue of leaves decomposed for 338 days had greater rates of CH4 production (5.8 µmol g−1 dry mass d−1) than less decomposed (<0.42 µmol g−1 dry mass d−1) or more decomposed (2.1 µmol g−1 dry mass d−1) leaf residue. Species-driven differences in their ability to fuel CH4 production were evident throughout the study, whereas concomitant rates of CO2 production were more similar among species and declined with degree of decomposition. Methane production rates exhibited a positive correlation with pectin and the rate of pectin decomposition. This link between leaf litter decay rates, biochemical components in leaves, and microorganisms producing greenhouse gases should improve predictions of CH4 production in wetlands.
Keywordsangiosperm deciduous decomposition evergreen functional traits gymnosperm litter quality methane production New York State pectin wetland
This work was supported by a US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch grant (Grant No. NYC-147498). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). We also appreciate support from the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars (RCPRS) program at Cornell University. Several undergraduate students at Cornell provided wonderful assistance with the biochemical analyses and gas production measurements.
- Bou Daher F, Braybrook SA. 2015. How to let go: pectin and plant cell adhesion. Front Plant Sci 6:253.Google Scholar
- Coldwell BB, DeLong WA. 1950. Studies of the composition of deciduous forest tree leaves before and after partial decomposition. Sci Agric 30:456–66.Google Scholar
- Cornwell WK, Cornelissen JH, Amatangelo K, Dorrepaal E, Eviner VT, Godoy O, Hobbie SE, Hoorens B, Kurokawa H, Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Quested HM, Santiago LS, Wardle DA, Wright IJ, Aerts R, Allison SD, Van Bodegom P, Brovkin V, Chatain A, Callaghan TV, Díaz S, Garnier E, Gurvich DE, Kazakou E, Klein JA, Read J, Reich PB, Soudzilovskaia NA, Vaieretti MV, Westoby M. 2008. Plant species traits are the predominant control on litter decomposition rates within biomes worldwide. Ecol Lett 11:1065–71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Díaz S, Garnier E, Lavorel S, Poorter N, Jaureguiberry P, Bret-Harte MS, Cornwell WK, Craine JM, Gurvich DE, Urcelay C, Veneklaas EJ, Reich PB, Poorter L, Wright IJ, Ray P, Enrico L, Pausas JG, de Vos AC, Buchmann N, Funes G, Quétier F, Hodgson JG, Thompson K, Morgan HD, ter Steege H, van der Heijden MGA, Sack L, Blonder B, Poschlod P, Vaieretti MV, Conti G, Staver AC, Aquino S, Cornelissen JHC. 2013. New handbook for standardised measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Aust J Bot 61:167–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schink B, Zeikus JG. 1982. Microbial ecology of pectin decomposition in anoxic lake sediments. J Gen Microbiol 128:393–404.Google Scholar
- Treat CC, Natali SM, Ernakovich J, Iversen CM, Lupascu M, McGuire AD, Norby RJ, Roy Chowdhury T, Richter A, Šantrůčková H, Schädel C, Schuur EAG, Sloan VL, Turetsky MR, Waldrop MP. 2015. A pan-Arctic synthesis of CH4 and CO2 production from anoxic soil incubations. Glob Change Biol 21:2787–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Van Soest PJ. 1994. Nutritional ecology of the ruminant. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Westoby M. 1999. Generalization in functional plant ecology: the species sampling problem, plant ecology strategy schemes, and phylogeny. In: Pugnaire FI, Valladares F, Eds. Handbook of functional plant ecology. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. p 847–72.Google Scholar
- Wright IJ, Reich PB, Westoby M, Ackerly DD, Baruch Z, Bongers F, Cavender-Bares J, Chapin T, Cornelissen JHC, Diemer M, Flexas J, Garnier E, Groom PK, Gulias J, Hikosaka K, Lamont BB, Lee T, Lee W, Lusk C, Midgley JJ, Navas M-L, Niinemets U, Oleksyn J, Osada N, Poorter H, Poot P, Prior L, Pyankov VI, Roumet C, Thomas SC, Tjoelker MG, Veneklaas EJ, Villar R. 2004. The worldwide leaf economics spectrum. Nature 428:821–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar