Plant litter decomposition and nutrient cycling in north Queensland tropical rain-forest communities of differing successional status

Parsons, Scott A, and Congdon, Robert A (2008) Plant litter decomposition and nutrient cycling in north Queensland tropical rain-forest communities of differing successional status. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 24 (3). pp. 317-327.

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Abstract

Soil processes are essential in enabling forest regeneration in disturbed landscapes. Little is known about whether litterfall from dominating pioneer species in secondary rain forest is functionally equivalent to that of mixed rain-forest litter in terms of contribution to soil processes. This study used the litterbag technique to quantify the decomposition and nutrient dynamics of leaf litter characteristic of three wet tropical forest communities in the Paluma Range National Park, Queensland, Australia over 511 d. These were: undisturbed primary rain forest (mixed rain-forest species), selectively logged secondary rain forest (pioneer Alphitonia petriei) and tall open eucalypt forest (Eucalyptus grandis). Mass loss, total N, total P, K, Ca and Mg dynamics of the decaying leaves were determined, and different mathematical models were used to explain the mass loss data. Rainfall and temperature data were also collected from each site. The leaves of A. petriei and E. grandis both decomposed significantly slower in situ than the mixed rain-forest species (39%, 38% and 29% ash-free dry mass remaining respectively). Nitrogen and phosphorus were immobilized, with 182% N and 134% P remaining in E. grandis, 127% N and 132% P remaining in A. petriei and 168% N and 121% P remaining in the mixed rain-forest species. The initial lignin:P ratio and initial lignin:N ratio exerted significant controls on decomposition rates. The exceptionally slow decomposition of the pioneer species is likely to limit soil processes at disturbed tropical rain-forest sites in Australia.

Item ID: 1871
Item Type: Article (UNSPECIFIED)
Keywords: decomposition, leaf litter, nutrient cycling, rain forest, succession
ISSN: 1469-7831
Date Deposited: 16 May 2008
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0607 Plant Biology > 060799 Plant Biology not elsewhere classified @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0607 Plant Biology @ 0%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 11
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