More of the same? In situ leaf and root decomposition rates do not vary between 80 native and nonnative deciduous forest species

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

Invaders often have greater rates of production and produce more labile litter than natives. The increased litter quantity and quality of invaders should increase nutrient cycling through faster litter decomposition. However, the limited number of invasive species that have been included in decomposition studies has hindered the ability to generalize their impacts on decomposition rates. Further, previous decomposition studies have neglected roots. We measured litter traits and decomposition rates of leaves for 42 native and 36 nonnative woody species, and those of fine roots for 23 native and 25 nonnative species that occur in temperate deciduous forests throughout the Eastern USA. Among the leaf and root traits that differed between native and invasive species, only leaf nitrogen was significantly associated with decomposition rate. However, native and nonnative species did not differ systematically in leaf and root decomposition rates. We found that among the parameters measured, litter decomposer activity was driven by litter chemical quality rather than tissue density and structure. Our results indicate that litter decomposition rate per se is not a pathway by which forest woody invasive species affect North American temperate forest soil carbon and nutrient processes. See also the Commentary by Prescott and Zukswert

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume209
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Keywords

  • Eastern USA
  • Leaf and root decomposition
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Plant invasions
  • Temperate deciduous forests
  • Understory woody species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

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