Plant Ecology

, Volume 217, Issue 12, pp 1467–1479 | Cite as

Leaf chemistry of woody species in the Brazilian cerrado and seasonal forest: response to soil and taxonomy and effects on decomposition rates

  • Raquel Carolina Miatto
  • Marco Antonio Batalha


The Brazilian cerrado occurs interspersed with the semi-deciduous seasonal forest, and soil fertility is considered as the main determinant of the abrupt transitions between both vegetation types. We aimed to study patterns across chemical traits of green leaves in 121 cerrado and seasonal forest woody species from southeastern Brazil, their response to soil nutrient status, and their effects on decomposition rates. We compared leaf traits of both cerrado and forest species and constructed multilevel models to account for partitioning of variance in each trait. We calculated the community-weighted mean of each trait to assess their response to soil nutrient status and their effects on decomposition rates of standard plant material. Most of the traits were significantly correlated among themselves, with cerrado species having lower nutrient concentrations than the seasonal forest. Taxonomy accounted for 52 % of the total variance in leaf traits, whereas vegetation type accounted for 19 %. All leaf traits but leaf manganese and aluminium concentrations were significantly related to soil properties. Decomposition rates were affected indirectly by soil features through its effects on leaf traits. Contrary to the expected, the higher the leaf nitrogen concentration in the surrounding litter, the lower the decomposition rate. Even with a large effect of taxonomy on leaf nutrient-related traits, soil exerted an important role on the chemical traits. Strategies of both cerrado and seasonal forest species were carried out through multi-element control of soil on leaf nutrient composition. The effect of such different strategies on functioning was, however, less prominent.


Decomposition Leaf chemistry Nutrient availability Savanna Tea bag index Tropical forest 



The authors thank the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp, grant 2012/18295-4) and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes, grant BEX 12105/13-9) for the scholarships granted to RCM; the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, for financial support and scholarship granted to MAB (CNPq, grant 305912/2013-5); the São Paulo Forestry Institute, for the research permit; the Vaçununga State Park staff, for logistical assistance; M Groppo and WM Mantovani, for help with species identification; GH Carvalho, for suggesting the tea bag method; the Tea Bag Team, for help with the decomposition rate calculation; N Abe, ALS Albino, AL Braga, E Carmargo, KR Coelho, P Dodonov, JR Freitas, CS Gonçalves, R. Grazziano, DT Gregolin, LA Joaquim, MB Leite, WB Nascimento, LV Nóbrega, BA Severian, and CB Zanelli, for help with field work; and MC Scalon for revising a previous version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raquel Carolina Miatto
    • 1
  • Marco Antonio Batalha
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyFederal University of São CarlosSão CarlosBrazil

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