Impact of species diversity, stand age and environmental factors on leaf litter decomposition in subtropical forests in China
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Background and aims
Tree diversity is considered to influence decomposition either by changing environmental conditions or by non-additive litter mixture effects. Thus, we examined the influence of tree species richness, forest age and environmental factors on single-species decomposition, and tested the hypothesis that high litter species diversity induces predominantly positive non-additive mixture effects on decomposition processes.
Decomposition trials using litter bags were performed in subtropical forests in China. Plot-specific decompositions rates of the abundant species Schima superba were related to environmental factors across 27 forest stands differing in age and tree species richness. Effects of litter species diversity on decomposition and N loss was assessed based on 27 plot-specific litter mixtures comprising 7 to 17 species.
Decomposition rate of Schima superba leaf litter was mainly affected by stand characteristics and microclimate but not tree diversity. Two thirds of plot-specific litter mixtures showed a positive non-additive mixture effect whose strength was marginally positively influenced by litter species richness.
Tree diversity at stand level does not directly influence decomposition of a common litter substrate. However, our results suggest that tree species richness in the litter layer can indirectly promote decomposition and nutrient cycling via positive non-additive mixture effects.
KeywordsBEF-China Forest biodiversity Non-additive mixture effects Nitrogen Secondary forest succession Subtropical broad-leaved forest
We wish to record our gratitude to the staff of the Gutianshan National Nature Reserve, especially to Fang Teng, for the received support. We thank the members of the BEF- China project for help in plot establishment, and Andreas Kundela and Katherina Pietsch for sharing LAI and microclimate data. Nina Buchmann (Grassland Sciences group, ETH Zurich) provided helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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