, Volume 162, Issue 3, pp 781–790 | Cite as

Leaf litter traits of invasive species slow down decomposition compared to Spanish natives: a broad phylogenetic comparison

  • Oscar Godoy
  • Pilar Castro-Díez
  • Richard S. P. Van Logtestijn
  • Johannes H. C. Cornelissen
  • Fernando Valladares
Ecosystem ecology - Original paper


Leaf traits related to the performance of invasive alien species can influence nutrient cycling through litter decomposition. However, there is no consensus yet about whether there are consistent differences in functional leaf traits between invasive and native species that also manifest themselves through their “after life” effects on litter decomposition. When addressing this question it is important to avoid confounding effects of other plant traits related to early phylogenetic divergences and to understand the mechanism underlying the observed results to predict which invasive species will exert larger effects on nutrient cycling. We compared initial leaf litter traits, and their effect on decomposability as tested in standardized incubations, in 19 invasive-native pairs of co-familial species from Spain. They included 12 woody and seven herbaceous alien species representative of the Spanish invasive flora. The predictive power of leaf litter decomposition rates followed the order: growth form > family > status (invasive vs. native) > leaf type. Within species pairs litter decomposition tended to be slower and more dependent on N and P in invaders than in natives. This difference was likely driven by the higher lignin content of invader leaves. Although our study has the limitation of not representing the natural conditions from each invaded community, it suggests a potential slowing down of the nutrient cycle at ecosystem scale upon invasion.


Nitrogen Phosphorus Lignin Calcium Phylogenetically independent contrast 

Supplementary material

442_2009_1512_MOESM1_ESM.doc (68 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 68 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oscar Godoy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pilar Castro-Díez
    • 2
  • Richard S. P. Van Logtestijn
    • 3
  • Johannes H. C. Cornelissen
    • 3
  • Fernando Valladares
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Instituto de Recursos NaturalesCentro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSICMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de AlcaláAlcalá de HenaresSpain
  3. 3.Department of Systems Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Institute of Ecological ScienceVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Departamento de Biología y Geología, Área de Biodiversidad & ConservaciónUniversidad Rey Juan Carlos, ESCETMóstolesSpain
  5. 5.Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Global (LINCGlobal), Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasPUC, UC-CSICSantiagoChile

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