Assessing the temporal dynamics of aquatic and terrestrial litter decomposition in an alpine forest

Yue, Kai, García-Palacios, Pablo, Parsons, Scott A., Yang, Wanqin, Peng, Yan, Tan, Bo, Huang, Chunping, and Wu, Fuzhong (2018) Assessing the temporal dynamics of aquatic and terrestrial litter decomposition in an alpine forest. Functional Ecology, 32 (10). pp. 2464-2475.

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1. Litter decomposition supplies nutrients and energy within and among aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. It is driven by several biotic and abiotic factors, the relative importance of which may change during litter decay. However, to date, very few studies have addressed the temporal dynamics of such factors across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, which limits our understanding of litter decomposition process.

2. To assess the temporal dynamics of major abiotic and biotic litter decomposition drivers, we conducted a 2-year field experiment to evaluate the losses of foliar litter carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in alpine streams, riparian zones and forest floors. Environmental (soil, water and climatic) factors were continuously monitored, and incubated plant litter was sampled over time to assess temporal changes in litter chemistry and microbial diversity.

3. We analysed sequential litter decomposition stages based on mass-loss intervals and used structural equation modelling to disentangle the relative importance of each biotic and abiotic driver.

4. Our results suggested that across the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, litter C and N loss was generally controlled by a common hierarchy of drivers: (a) Environment and initial litter quality regulated C and N loss via both direct and indirect effects, and their total effects were mainly significant in the early and late decomposition stages, respectively; (b) changes in litter chemistry significantly influenced litter decomposition throughout the decomposition process, mainly via direct effects; and (c) microbial diversity per se showed minimal effects on litter C and N loss.

5. The identified common hierarchy of biotic and abiotic drivers and their direct and indirect effects on C and N loss at different decomposition stages across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems indicates the possibility of integrating aquatic and terrestrial decomposition into a single framework for future construction of models accounting for temporal dynamics of litter decomposition.

Item ID: 55922
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2435
Keywords: carbon loss, environment, initial litter quality, litter chemistry changes, mass-loss interval, microbial diversity, nitrogen loss
Copyright Information: © 2018 The Authors. Functional Ecology. © 2018 British Ecological Society
Funders: National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC)
Projects and Grants: NNSFC 31622018, NNSFC 31670526, NNSFC 31570445, NNSFC 31500509, NNSFC 31500358
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2018 07:54
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410203 Ecosystem function @ 35%
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3007 Forestry sciences > 300703 Forest ecosystems @ 35%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4106 Soil sciences > 410603 Soil biology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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