Rapid leaf litter decomposition of deciduous understory shrubs and lianas mediated by mesofauna

Abstract

Leaf litter decomposition rates (LDRs) of understory woody species vary substantially across species in temperate forest ecosystems. Using litter traits and LDR data for 78 shrub and liana species from a previous study, plus an additional litterbag experiment with varying mesh bag sizes for a subset of 17 species with rapid LDRs, we report that litter traits have nonlinear effects on LDR. In addition, we show that mesofauna, including nonnative earthworms, in general increase LDR and that the effects are greater for species of high LDR. Our results suggest that the acceleration of LDR by the co-invasion of plant species with high LDR and soil biota can promote nutrient cycling, potentially disrupting the stability of native forest ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

This work was partly funded by the Strategic Science Investment Fund of the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Science and Innovation Group to IJ.

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Correspondence to Insu Jo.

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Communicated by Joy Nystrom Mast.

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Jo, I., Fridley, J.D. & Frank, D.A. Rapid leaf litter decomposition of deciduous understory shrubs and lianas mediated by mesofauna. Plant Ecol 221, 63–68 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-019-00992-3

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Keywords

  • Litter decomposition
  • Litter traits
  • Mesofauna
  • Understory woody species
  • Temperate deciduous forest
  • Eastern USA