Highly consistent effects of plant litter identity and functional traits on decomposition across a latitudinal gradient

M. Makkonen, M.P. Berg, I.T. Handa, S. Hättenschwiler, J. van Ruijven, P.M. van Bodegom, M.A.P.A. Aerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

278 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Plant litter decomposition is a key process in terrestrial carbon cycling, yet the relative importance of various control factors remains ambiguous at a global scale. A full reciprocal litter transplant study with 16 litter species that varied widely in traits and originated from four forest sites covering a large latitudinal gradient (subarctic to tropics) showed a consistent interspecific ranking of decomposition rates. At a global scale, variation in decomposition was driven by a small subset of litter traits (water saturation capacity and concentrations of magnesium and condensed tannins). These consistent findings, that were largely independent of the varying local decomposer communities, suggest that decomposer communities show little specialisation and high metabolic flexibility in processing plant litter, irrespective of litter origin. Our results provide strong support for using trait-based approaches in modelling the global decomposition component of biosphere-atmosphere carbon fluxes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1041
JournalEcology Letters
Volume15
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • tropical rain-forest
  • leaf-litter
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • central argentina
  • carbon-cycle
  • rates
  • dynamics
  • climate
  • quality
  • diversity

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