, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 395–404 | Cite as

A stronger coordination of litter decomposability between leaves and fine roots for woody species in a warmer region

  • Saori Fujii
  • Naoki Makita
  • Akira S. Mori
  • Hiroshi Takeda
Original Paper


Key message

There is a positive correlation between leaf and root decomposition across species, both in a warm-temperate forest in Japan, as well as globally.


Evaluating the effects of plant species traits on litter decomposition would increase our understanding of plant–soil feedbacks in forest ecosystems. Currently, an assessment of a possible coordination between leaf and root decomposition across different species is required. However, previous studies have generated conflicting results. We hypothesized that such inconsistencies may be attributed to differences in local climatic effects on the decomposition process. We focused on the linkages between leaf and fine-root decomposition of woody species in a warm-temperate forest, which have not been addressed in previous studies. We found a significant positive correlation between leaf and root decomposition, and this linkage may be attributed to a wider range of decomposition rates across the species in our study forest. Additionally, we combined our data with those of previous studies of woody species to infer a global linkage in the decomposition process between leaves and roots. We found a positive correlation in decomposition rates between leaves and roots at the global scale, as well as a relatively strong correlation in warmer regions. These results support the importance of litter quality on biogeochemical processes and suggest that synergetic interactions between climate and plant communities could be amplified in a warmer future.


Biogeochemical cycles Climatic control Plant–soil feedback Warm-temperate forest 


Author contribution statement

SF and NM designed and conducted the experiment. SF and ASM analyzed the data. SF and ASM wrote the manuscript with critical inputs from NM and HT.


We thank Dr. Noriyuki Osada, Ms. Ayumi Kawamura Ms. Shoko Oguchi, and the staff of the Kamigamo Experimental Station, Field Science Education and Research Center of Kyoto University for their support of this study. This study was supported by the Fujiwara Natural History Foundation and by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (No. 25850115 to S.F.). We thank Dr. Ulrich Lüttge, guest Editor and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

468_2015_1221_MOESM1_ESM.docx (365 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 364 kb)


  1. Adams MB, Campbell RG, Allen HL, Davey CB (1987) Root and foliar nutrient concentrations in loblolly pine: effects of season, site, and fertilization. For Sci 33:984–996Google Scholar
  2. Aerts R (1990) Nutrient use efficiency in evergreen and deciduous species from heathlands. Oecologia 84:391–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aerts R (1997) Climate, leaf litter chemistry and leaf litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems: a triangular relationship. Oikos 79:439–449. doi: 10.2307/3546886 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aulen M, Shipley B, Bradley R (2012) Prediction of in situ root decomposition rates in an interspecific context from chemical and morphological traits. Ann Bot 109:287–297. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcr259 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Bardgett RD, Wardle DA (2010) Aboveground–belowground linkages: biotic interactions, ecosystem processes, and global change. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Berg B, McClaugherty CA (2008) Plant litter, decomposition, humus formation, carbon sequestration, second edn. Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  7. Berg B et al (1993) Litter mass loss rates in pine forests of Europe and Eastern United States: some relationships with climate and litter quality. Biogeochemistry 20:127–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Birouste M, Kazakou E, Blanchard A, Roumet C (2012) Plant traits and decomposition: are the relationships for roots comparable to those for leaves? Ann Bot 109:463–472. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcr297 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapin FS III, Matson PA, Vitousek PM (2011) Principles of terrestrial ecosystem ecology. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cornelissen JHC (1996) An experimental comparison of leaf decomposition rates in a wide range of temperate plant species and types. J Ecol 84:573–582. doi: 10.2307/2261479 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornelissen JHC, Thompson K (1997) Functional leaf attributes predict litter decomposition rate in herbaceous plants. New Phytol 135:109–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cornwell WK et al (2008) Plant species traits are the predominant control on litter decomposition rates within biomes worldwide. Ecol Lett 11:1065–1071. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01219.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Couteaux M-M, Bottner P, Berg B (1995) Litter decomposition, climate and litter quality. Trends Ecol Evol 10:63–66CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Craine JM (2009) Resource strategies of wild plants. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craine JM, Lee WG, Bond WJ, Williamas RJ, Johnson LC (2005) Environmental constraints on a global relationship among leaf and root traits of grasses. Ecology 86:12–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Esau K (1964) Plant anatomy, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Fan P, Guo D (2010) Slow decomposition of lower order roots: a key mechanism of root carbon and nutrient retention in the soil. Oecologia 163:509–515. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1541-4 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fortunel C et al (2009) Leaf traits capture the effects of land use changes and climate on litter decomposability of grasslands across Europe. Ecology 90:598–611CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Freschet GT, Cornelissen JH, van Logtestijn RS, Aerts R (2010a) Substantial nutrient resorption from leaves, stems and roots in a subarctic flora: what is the link with other resource economics traits? New Phytol 186:879–889. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03228.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Freschet GT, Cornelissen JHC, van Logtestijn RSP, Aerts R (2010b) Evidence of the ‘plant economics spectrum’ in a subarctic flora. J Ecol 98:362–373. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2009.01615.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Freschet GT, Aerts R, Cornelissen JHC (2012) A plant economics spectrum of litter decomposability. Funct Ecol 26:56–65. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01913.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freschet GT et al (2013) Linking litter decomposition of above- and below-ground organs to plant–soil feedbacks worldwide. J Ecol 101:943–952. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12092 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fujii S, Takeda H (2010) Dominant effects of litter substrate quality on the difference between leaf and root decomposition process above- and belowground. Soil Biol Biochem 42:2224–2230. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.08.022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fujimaki R (2005) Mechanism and function of fine root production in forest ecosystems. Doctoral thesis, Kyoto University (Doctoral Thesis)Google Scholar
  25. Goebel M et al (2011) Decomposition of the finest root branching orders: linking belowground dynamics to fine-root function and structure. Ecol Monogr 81:89–102. doi: 10.1890/09-2390.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Graaff M-Ad, Six J, Jastrow JD, Schadt CW, Wullschleger SD (2013) Variation in root architecture among switchgrass cultivars impacts root decomposition rates. Soil Biol Biochem 58:198–206. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2012.11.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hishi T (2007) Heterogeneity of individual roots within the fine root architecture: causal links between physiological and ecosystem functions. Journal of Forest Research 12:126–133. doi: 10.1007/s10310-006-0260-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hobbie SE (1992) Effects of plant species on nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 7:336–339. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(92)90126-V CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hobbie SE, Oleksyn J, Eissenstat DM, Reich PB (2010) Fine root decomposition rates do not mirror those of leaf litter among temperate tree species. Oecologia 162:505–513. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1479-6 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Holdaway RJ, Richardson SJ, Dickie IA, Peltzer DA, Coomes DA (2011) Species- and community-level patterns in fine root traits along a 120,000-year soil chronosequence in temperate rain forest. J Ecol 99:954–963. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01821.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. IUSS Working Group WRB (2006) World reference base for soil resources 2006. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  32. Kerkhoff AJ, Fagan WF, Elser JJ, Enquist BJ (2006) Phylogenetic and growth form variation in the scaling of nitrogen and phosphorus in the seed plants. Am Nat 168:E103–E122CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Killingbeck KT (1996) Nutrients in senesced leaves: keys to the search for potential resorption and resorption proficiency. Ecology 77:1716–1727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lavelle P, Blanchart E, Martin A, Martin S, Spain A (1993) A hierarchical model for decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems: application to Soils of the Humid Tropics. Biotropica 25:130. doi: 10.2307/2389178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morishita K, Ando M (2002) Change in cover types of urban forests damaged by pine wilt disease in the northern part of Kyoto City. Forest Research (in Japanese) 74:35–45Google Scholar
  36. Norby RJ, Ledford J, Reilly CD, Miller NE, O’Neill EG (2004) Fine-root production dominates response of a deciduous forest to atmospheric CO2 enrichment. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:9689–9693. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403491101 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Olson JS (1963) Energy storage and the balance of producers and decomposers in ecological systems. Ecology 44:322–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Park BB, Yanai RD (2009) Nutrient concentrations in roots, leaves and wood of seedling and mature sugar maple and American beech at two contrasting sites. For Ecol Manage 258:1153–1160. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.06.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Perez-Harguindeguy N, Dıaz S, Cornelissen JHC, Vendramini F, Cabido M, Castellanos A (2000) Chemistry and toughness predict leaf litter decomposition rates over a wide spectrum of functional types and taxa in central Argentina. Plant Soil 218:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pregitzer KS, DeForest JL, Burton AJ, Allen MF, Ruess RW, Hendrick RL (2002) Fine root architecture of nine North American trees. Ecol Monogr 72:293–309. doi: 10.2307/3100029 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rasse DP, Rumpel C, Dignac M-F (2005) Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilisation. Plant Soil 269:341–356. doi: 10.1007/s11104-004-0907-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Silver WL, Miya RK (2001) Global patterns in root decomposition: comparisons of climate and litter quality effects. Oecologia 129:407–419. doi: 10.1007/s004420100740 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith MD, Knapp AK, Collins SL (2009) A framework for assessing ecosystem dynamics in response to chronic resource alterations induced by global change. Ecology 90:3279–3289CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Swift MJ, Heal OW, Anderson JM (1979) Decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, LondonGoogle Scholar
  45. Takeda H, Ishida Y, Tsutsumi T (1987) Decomposition of leaf litter in relation to litter quality and site conditions. Memoirs of the College of Agriculture, Kyoto Univ 130:17–38Google Scholar
  46. Tjoelker MG, Craine JM, Wedin D, Reich PB, Tilman D (2005) Linking leaf and root trait syndromes among 39 grassland and savannah species. New Phytol 167:493–508. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2005.01428.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Tsutsumi T (1973) Nutrient Production in terrestrial plant community, vol 1b. Lectures of Ecology, Kyoritsu Shuppan, Tokyo (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  48. Wang H, Liu S, Mo J (2010) Correlation between leaf litter and fine root decomposition among subtropical tree species. Plant Soil 335:289–298. doi: 10.1007/s11104-010-0415-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Withington JM, Reich PB, Oleksyn J, Eissenstat DM (2006) Comparisons of structure and life span in roots and leaves among temperate trees. Ecol Monogr 76:381–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhang D, Hui D, Luo Y, Zhou G (2008) Rates of litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems: global patterns and controlling factors. J Plant Ecol 1:85–93. doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtn002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saori Fujii
    • 1
    • 2
  • Naoki Makita
    • 3
  • Akira S. Mori
    • 2
  • Hiroshi Takeda
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Systems ScienceGraduate School of Science and Engineering, Doshisha UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Natural Sciences, Graduate School of Environment and Information SciencesYokohama National UniversityYokohamaJapan
  3. 3.Kansai Research CenterForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteKyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations