Leaf litter decomposition and diversity of arthropod decomposers in tropical Muyong forest in Banaue, Philippines


The Muyong forest, an indigenous secondary forest in Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines, plays a crucial role in the Muyong–Payoh system, a continuum of secondary forest and rice terrace, of the Banaue rice terraces by providing water and nutrients to the rice plants in the Payoh terraces. In recent decades, the planting of introduced tree species in the Muyong forest has threatened the sustainable provision of ecosystem services such as water balance and nutrient cycling. To further understand nutrient cycling in the Muyong–Payoh systems, this study was conducted in Poitan, Banaue, Ifugao to gather preliminary baseline data on floral diversity, leaf litterfall rate, leaf litter decomposition rate, and diversity and succession of arthropods in decomposing leaf litter in a Muyong forest. Vegetation analysis was done by identifying and describing the trees growing inside the five 10 m × 10 m quadrat sampling plots. Monthly leaf litter fall was collected in 1 m × 1 m litter traps, and the dry weight was determined after oven-drying at 65 °C for 48 h. Leaf litter decomposition experiment was established by laying out 12 nylon mesh bags containing fresh leaf litter in each of the four sites on the forest floor and one bag was retrieved every month to determine the change in dry weight of the leaf litter. Six bulk soil samples were collected from the Muyong forest floor and analyzed for organic matter, pH, available P and exchangeable K. Fresh leaf litter samples were analyzed for total N, P and K contents. Arthropods in the collected decomposing leaf litter were extracted using Berlese funnel and later identified up to families level using arthropod taxonomic key. The diversity of plants in the Muyong forest includes thirty-eight tree species belonging to 19 families dominated by indigenous tree species. Results showed that the monthly leaf litter fall was higher during the dry months of March to May and lower during the wet months. The estimated total leaf litter fall in Muyong forest was comparable to published litter fall from tropical secondary forests. The N, P and K contents of fresh leaf litter range from 1.0 to 1.2, 0.11 and 0.40%, respectively. The first month of decomposition has the fastest rate while the decomposition rate during the next 4 months ranged from 0.125 to 0.251. Complete decomposition or mass lost in the leaf litter in the Muyong forest took place within 5 months. The soil arthropods identified in the decomposing leaf litter were composed of 13 orders and 28 families. Majority of the collected arthropods were insects while other species including mites, spiders, millipedes and sowbugs were also present. Detrivore and fungivore Families were found to be dominant in the decomposing leaf litter. Moreover, the composition and succession of arthropod decomposer community varied in the three sampling methods and with the changing quality of the litter material as decomposition progressed. The wide diversity and succession of leaf litter decomposers consisting of detritivores, predators, fungivore and herbivore coupled with abundant rainfall and warm temperature are the two main factors that contribute to the fast rate of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient turn over in the Muyong forest. Thus, the Muyong forest can sustain the productivity of rice planted in the adjoining downstream Payoh terraces. Hence, the conservation and management of the Muyong forest is critical in maintaining the ecological functions of the Muyong–Payoh continuum.

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This study is part of the project E-214 entitled “Nutrient and Water Dynamics, Plant Biodiversity and Agricultural Productivity of MuyongPayoh Systems in Banaue, Ifugao” funded by the National Research Council of the Philippines. We would like to thank the Local Government Units of Barangay Poitan and municipality of Banaue, Ifugao; and the local community in supporting our project.

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Correspondence to Damasa B. Magcale-Macandog.

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Magcale-Macandog, D.B., Manlubatan, M.B.T., Javier, J.M. et al. Leaf litter decomposition and diversity of arthropod decomposers in tropical Muyong forest in Banaue, Philippines. Paddy Water Environ 16, 265–277 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10333-017-0624-9

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  • Soil arthropods
  • Decomposers
  • Indigenous tree species
  • Leaf litter fall
  • Leaf litter decomposition