Advertisement

Plant and Soil

, Volume 358, Issue 1–2, pp 323–335 | Cite as

Exploring short-term leaf-litter decomposition dynamics in a Mediterranean ecosystem: dependence on litter type and site conditions

  • María AlmagroEmail author
  • María Martínez-Mena
Regular Article

Abstract

Aims

Plant litter decomposition plays an important role in the storage of soil organic matter in terrestrial ecosystems. Conversion of native vegetation to agricultural lands and subsequent land abandonment can lead to shifts in canopy structure, and consequently influence decomposition dynamics by alterations in soil temperature and moisture conditions, solar radiation exposure, and soil erosion patterns. This study was conducted to assess which parameters were more closely related to short-term decomposition dynamics of two predominant Mediterranean leaf litter types.

Methods

Using the litterbag technique, we incubated leaf litter of Pinus halepensis and Rosmarinus officinalis in two Mediterranean land-uses with different degree of vegetation cover (open forest, abandoned agricultural field).

Results

Fresh local litter lost between 20 and 55% of its initial mass throughout the 20-month incubation period. Rosemary litter decomposed faster than pine litter, showing net N immobilization in the early stages of decomposition, in contrast to the net N release exhibited by pine litter. Parameters related to litter quality (N content or C:N) or land-use/site conditions (ash content, an index of soil deposition on litter) were found to explain the cross-site variability in mass loss rates for rosemary and Aleppo pine litter, respectively.

Conclusions

The results from this study suggest that decomposition drivers may differ depending on litter type in this Mediterranean ecosystem. While rosemary litter was degraded mainly by microbial activity, decomposition of pine litter was likely driven primarily by abiotic processes like soil erosion.

Keywords

Carbon cycle Litter decomposition Mediterranean ecosystem N immobilization Soil erosion Vegetation structure 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported with funds provided by the Spanish CICYT (ERHIBAC project, GGL2004-03179 BTE; PROBASE project, CGL2006-11619 HID), the SÉNECA Foundation of the Murcia Regional Government (03027/PI/05; 08757/PI/08), and the Spanish Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (RESEL project). We thank Javier Melgares, the owner of the experimental area, and Sebastian for their great interest in helping us during our work, and the members of the Soil and Water Conservation Department, who helped us in the lab and field work. The authors also thank Marta Goberna and Nacho Querejeta for helpful comments on the manuscript, and Gonzalo Barberá for his useful advice with statistical analyses. The State Agency of Meteorology (AEMET) is also acknowledged for providing some rainfall data.

References

  1. Aerts R (1997) Climate, leaf litter chemistry and leaf litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems: a triangular relationship. Oikos 79:439–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aerts R, van Logtestijn R, Karlsson P (2006) Nitrogen supply differentially affects litter decomposition rates and nitrogen dynamics of sub-artic bog species. Oecologia 146:652–658PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almagro M, López J, Querejeta JI, Martínez-Mena M (2009) Temperature dependence of soil CO2 efflux is strongly modulated by seasonal patterns of moisture availability in a Mediterranean ecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 41:594–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Almagro M, López J, Boix-Fayos C, Albaladejo J, Martínez-Mena M (2010) Belowground carbon allocation patterns in a dry Mediterranean ecosystem: a comparison of two models. Soil Biol Biochem 42:1549–1557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Austin AT, Ballaré CL (2010) Dual role of lignin in plant litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107(10):4618–4622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Austin AT, Vivanco L (2006) Plant litter decomposition in a semi-arid ecosystem controlled by photodegradation. Nature 442:555–558PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Austin AT, Yahdjian L, Stark JM, Belnap J, Porporato A, Norton U, Ravetta DA, Schaeffer SM (2004) Water pulses and biogeochemical cycles in arid and semiarid ecosystems. Oecologia 141:221–235PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baeza MJ, Raventós J, Escarré A, Vallejo VR (2006) Fire risk and vegetation structural dynamics in Mediterranean shrubland. Plant Ecol 187(2):189–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baeza MJ, Santana VM, Pausas JG, Vallejo VR (2011) Successional trends in standing dead biomass in Mediterranean basin species. J Veg Sci 22(3):467–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berg B (1988) Dynamics of nitrogen (15N) in decomposing Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) needle litter. Long-term decomposition in a Scots pine forest. VI. Can J Bot 66(8):1539–1546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berg B, Berg MP, Bottner P, Box E, Breymeyer A et al (1993) Litter mass loss rates in pine forests of Europe and Eastern United States: some relationships with climate and litter quality. Biogeochemistry 20(3):127–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berg B, Davey MP, De Marco A, Emmett B, Faituri M, Hobbie SE, Johansson MB, Liu C, McClaugherty C, Norell L, Rutigliano FA, Vesterdal L, Virzo De Santo A (2010) Factors influencing limit values for pine needle litter decomposition: a synthesis for boreal and temperate pine forest systems. Biogeochemistry 100:57–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Berhe AA (2011) Decomposition of organic substrates at eroding vs. depositional landforms positions. Plant Soil 350(1–2):261–280Google Scholar
  14. Bochet E, Poesen J, Rubio JL (2006) Runoff and soil loss under individual plants of a semi-arid Mediterranean shrubland: influence of plant morphology and rainfall intensity. Earth Surf Process Landforms 31:536–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boddi S, Morassi Bonzi L, Calamassi R (2002) Structure and ultrastructure of Pinus halepensis primary needles. Flora 197:10–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brandt LA, King JY, Milchunas DG (2007) Effects of ultraviolet radiation on litter decomposition depend on precipitation and litter chemistry in a shortgrass steppe ecosystem. Glob Chang Biol 13:2193–2205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carreira JA, Arevalo JR, Niell FX (1996) Soil degradation and nutrient availability in fire-prone Mediterranean shrublands of southeastern Spain. Arid Land Res Manag 10(1):53–64Google Scholar
  18. Castro H, Fortunel C, Freitas H (2010) Effects of land abandonment on plant litter decomposition in a Montado system: relation to litter chemistry and community functional parameters. Plant Soil 333(1):181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Collins SL, Sinsabaugh RL, Crenshaw C, Green L, Porras-Alfaro A, Stursova M, Zeglin LH (2008) Pulse dynamics and microbial processes in aridland ecosystems. J Ecol 96:413–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Coûteaux MM, Bottner P, Berg B (1995) Litter decomposition, climate and litter quality. Tree 10(2):63–66Google Scholar
  21. Coûteaux MM, Aloui A, Kurz-Besson C (2002) Pinus halepensis litter decomposition in laboratory microcosms as influenced by temperature and a millipede, Glomeris marginata. Appl Soil Ecol 20:85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Currie WS (2003) Relationships between carbon turnover and bioavailable energy fluxes in two temperate forest soils. Glob Chang Biol 9:919–929CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Day TA, Zhang ET, Ruhland CT (2007) Exposure to solar UV-B radiation accelerates mass and lignin loss of Larrea tridentata litter in the Sonoran Desert. Plant Ecol 193:185–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dirks I, Navon Y, Kanas D, Dumbur R, Grünzweig JM (2010) Atmospheric water vapor as driver of litter decomposition in Mediterranean shrubland and grassland during rainless seasons. Glob Chang Biol 16(10):2799–2812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. FAO (2006) World reference base for soil resources. A framework for international classification, correlation and communication. World Soil Resources Reports 103Google Scholar
  26. Foereid B, Bellarby J, Meier-Augenstein W, Kemp H (2010) Does light exposure make plant litter more degradable? Plant Soil 333:275–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frey SD, Elliot ET, Paustian K, Peterson GA (2000) Fungal translocation as a mechanism for soil nitrogen inputs to surface residue decomposition in a no-tillage agroecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 32:689–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. García-Pausas J, Casals P, Romanyà J (2004) Litter decomposition and faunal activity in Mediterranean forest soils: effects of N content and the moss layer. Soil Biol Biochem 36:989–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grünzweig JM, Gelfand I, Fried Y, Yakir D (2007) Biogeochemical factors contributing to enhanced carbon storage following afforestation of a semi-arid shrubland. Biogeosciences 4:891–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hamer U, Makeschin F, An S, Zheng F (2009) Microbial activity and community structure in degraded soils on the Loess Plateau of China. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 172:118–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Henry HAL, Brizgys K, Field CB (2008) Between photodegradation and litter layer thickness. Ecosystems 11:545–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hobbie SE (2000) Interactions between litter lignin and soil nitrogen availability during leaf litter decomposition in a Hawaiian montane forest. Ecosystems 3:484–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huxman TE, Snyder KA, Tissue D et al (2004) Precipitation pulses and carbon fluxes in semiarid and arid ecosystems. Oecologia 141:254–268PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaloustian J, Pauli AM, Pastor J (2000) Decomposition of bio-polymers of some Mediterranean plants during heating. J Therm Anal Calorim 61:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kemp PR, Reynolds JF, Virginia RA, Whitford WG (2003) Decomposition of leaf and root litter of Chihuahuan desert shrubs: effects of three years of summer drought. J Arid Environ 53:21–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kurz-Besson C, Coûteaux MM, Berg B, Remacle J, Ribeiro C, Romanyà J, Thiéry JM (2006) A climate response function explaining most of the variation of the forest floor needle mass and the needle decomposition in pine forest across Europe. Plant Soil 285:97–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Manzoni S, Trofymow JA, Jackson RB, Porporato A (2010) Stoichiometric controls on carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in decomposing litter. Ecol Monogr 80(1):89–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martínez-Mena M, Castillo V, Albaladejo J (2001) Hydrological and erosional response to natural rainfall in a degraded semi-arid area of Southeast Spain. Hydrol Process 15:557–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martínez-Mena M, Álvarez Rogel J, Castillo V, Albaladejo J (2002) Organic carbon and nitrogen losses influenced by vegetation removal in a semi-arid soil. Biogeochemistry 61(3):309–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Martínez-Mena M, López J, Almagro M, Boix-Fayos C, Albaladejo J (2008) Effect of water erosion and cultivation on the soil carbon stock in a semiarid area of South-East Spain. Soil Tillage Res 99:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martínez-Mena M, López J, Almagro M, Albaladejo J, Castillo V, Ortiz R, Boix-Fayos C (2011) Organic carbon enrichment in sediments: effects of rainfall characteristics under different land-uses in a Mediterranean area. Catena. doi: 10.1016/j.catena.2011.02.005
  42. Martínez-Yrízar A, Núñez S, Búrquez A (2007) Leaf litter decomposition in a southern Sonoran Desert ecosystem, northwestern Mexico: effects of habitat and litter quality. Acta Oecologica 32:291–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Minderman G (1968) Decomposition and accumulation of organic matter in forests. J Ecol 56(2):355–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moorhead DL, Sinsabaugh RL (2006) A theoretical model of litter decay and microbial interaction. Ecol Monogr 76(2):151–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Olson JS (1963) Energy storage and the balance of producers and decomposers in ecological systems. Ecology 44:322–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Parton W, Silver WL, Burke IC, Grassens L et al (2007) Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition. Science 315:361–364PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rashid A, Ryan J (2004) Micronutrient constraints to crop production in soils with mediterranean-type characteristics: a review. J Plant Nutr 27(6):959–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rodríguez-Pleguezuelo CR, Durán Zuazo VH, Muriel Fernández JL, Martín Peinado FJ, Franco Tarifa D (2009) Litter decomposition and nitrogen release in a sloping Mediterranean subtropical agroecosystem on the coast of Granada (SE, Spain): effects of floristic and topographic alteration on the slope. Agric Ecosyst Environ 134:79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rovira P, Vallejo R (2002) Labile and recalcitrant pools of carbon and nitrogen in organic matter decomposing at different depths in soil: an acid hydrolysis approach. Geoderma 107:109–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Steinberger Y (1990) Litter fall and nitrogen reabsorption in Zygophyllum dumosum in the Neveg Desert. Israel J Bot 40(1):33–39Google Scholar
  51. Thornthwaite CW (1948) An approach towards a rational classification of climate. The geographical review 38Google Scholar
  52. Throop HL, Archer SR (2007) Interrelationships among shrub encroachment, land management, and litter decomposition in a semidesert grassland. Ecol Appl 17(6):1809–1823PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Throop HL, Archer SR (2009) Resolving the dryland decomposition conundrum: Some new perspectives on potential drivers. In: Lüttge U et al (eds) Progress in botany 70. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 171–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Traversa A, Said-Pullicino D, D’Orazio V, Gigliotti G (2011) Properties of humic acids in Mediterranean forest soils (Southern Italy): influence of different plant covering. Eur J For Res. doi: 10.1007/s10342-011-0491-7
  55. Uselman SM, Snyder KA, Blank RR, Jones TJ (2011) UVB exposure does not accelerate rates of litter decomposition in a semi-arid riparian ecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 43:1254–1265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vance ED, Brookes PC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19(6):703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vanderbilt KL, White CS, Hopkins O, Craig JA (2008) Aboveground decomposition in arid environments: results of a long-term study in central New Mexico. J Arid Environ 72:696–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vokou D, Liotiri S (1999) Stimulation of soil microbial activity by essential oils. Chemoecology 9:41–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whitford W (2002) Ecology of desert systems. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  60. Whitford WG, Meentemeyer V, Seastedt TR, Cromack K et al (1981) Exceptions to the AET model: deserts and clear-cut forest. Ecology 62(1):275–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Whitford WG, Steinberger Y, MacKay W, Parker LW, Freckman D, Wallwork JA, Weems D (1986) Rainfall and decomposition in the Chihuahuan desert. Oecologia 68:512–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Conservación de Suelos y AguasCentro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura- Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CEBAS-CSIC)MurciaSpain

Personalised recommendations