Plant and Soil

, Volume 402, Issue 1–2, pp 91–101 | Cite as

Effects of drought-induced forest die-off on litter decomposition

  • Josep Barba
  • Francisco Lloret
  • Jorge Curiel Yuste
Regular Article



Drought-induced forest die-off and subsequent species replacement may modify environmental conditions and eventually affect litter decomposition. We aimed to disentangle the effects of tree species and die-off state on litter decomposition in a mixed forest where Pinus sylvestris populations experiencing severe drought-induced die-off are being replaced by Quercus ilex.


Litter bags with leaves and fine roots from both species were placed under canopies representing three habitats of the die-off and replacement process (healthy and dead P. sylvestris and healthy Q. ilex). Mass was assessed over 3 years.


Species-specific chemistry of litter (C:N ratio) had a direct effect on mass loss, but also indirect effects, attributed to the decomposer microbial community associated with a given habitat-species. In their respective original habitats, oak leaves decomposed 44 % faster than pine needles, whereas oak roots decomposed 46 % slower than pine roots.


Forest die-off and species replacement affected litter decomposition. This effect can have great implications in forest functioning, particularly if drought-induced die-off worsens in the next decades, according with the trend observed in the studied system.


Litter decomposition Forest die-off Home field advantage Carbon cycle Mediterranean forest 



The authors thank I. Azcoitia, G. Barba, M. Gol and C. Recasens for help in fieldwork and sample processing, and J. Martínez-Vilalta for his valuable comments. We thank the anonymous referees for all their constructive comments and advice. This study was supported by the Spanish Government projects CGL2009-08101, CGL2010-16373, CGL2012-32965 and CGL2013-42271-P, by the Government of Catalonia grants (2009-SGR-00247 and 2014-SGR-453) and by the TRY initiative on plant traits ( JB was supported by an FPI scholarship (BES-2010-036558) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. JCY acknowledges the support of the “Ramon y Cajal” programme.

Supplementary material

11104_2015_2762_MOESM1_ESM.docx (125 kb)
Sup. Figure 1 (DOCX 124 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josep Barba
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francisco Lloret
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jorge Curiel Yuste
    • 3
  1. 1.CREAFBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.UnivAutònoma Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN), CSICMadridSpain

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