Leaf litter diversity positively affects the decomposition of plant polyphenols
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Background and Aims
Leaf litter decomposition is closely linked to nutrient cycling and driven by environmental conditions, species-specific leaf chemistry, and here in particular by polyphenols composition. However, not much attention has been paid on the decomposition of polyphenols themselves. We hypothesized that phenolics and tannin decomposition rates are species-specific and positively affected by litter species richness.
Leaf litter of three Chinese tree species was exposed to field decomposition conditions, aggregated in mixtures of different species richness (1-, 2-, 3-species mixtures). We sampled litter five times over the course of 171 days, calculated species-specific total phenolics and total protein precipitable tannin decomposition rates, assessed changes in polyphenol composition using HPLC, and tentatively identified compounds by LC-ESI-MS/MS.
Leaf litter richness effects on phenolics and tannin decomposition rates were positive, except for Sapindus-specific tannins, and differed between leaf litter species. Decomposition duration changed polyphenol compositions, and significantly interacted with leaf litter species richness with increasing effects of litter richness with time.
Litter diversity effects on polyphenol decomposition are crucial for whole leaf litter decomposition. The contrasting dependencies of phenolics and tannin decomposition rates on leaf litter richness may provide explanations for equivocal results in leaf litter mixture experiments.
KeywordsBEF-China leaf litter decomposition HPLC leaf polyphenols litter species richness tannins
Low molecular weight phenolics
High molecular weight phenolics
High-performance liquid chromatography
Liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry
Electro spray ionization
We thank N. Arnold, S. Both, A. Ehrlich, D. Eichenberg, U. Erhard. R. Heinke, M. Hiß, W. H. Müller, Z. Pei, B. Plaga, J. Schmidt, T. Walther and A. Zeuner for practical help. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1 and 2) and the Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion for the participation in a Summer School in Jingdezhen (GZ 1146). We thank the whole BEF-China, and especially the New Integrated Litter Experiment team for the inspiring working atmosphere. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions to improve the present manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Data on phenolics content, tannin content as well as peak area of all 93 quantified peaks are available on the BEF-China Data Portal at http://china.befdata.biow.uni-leipzig.de/datasets/492.
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