Leaf and root litter decomposition is discontinued at high altitude tropical montane rainforests contributing to carbon sequestration

2017 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Leaf and root litter decomposition is discontinued at high altitude tropical montane rainforests contributing to carbon sequestration​
Marian, F.; Sandmann, D.; Krashevska, V.; Maraun, M. & Scheu, S.​ (2017) 
Ecology and Evolution, pp. 1​-12​.​ DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3189 

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Marian, Franca; Sandmann, Dorothee; Krashevska, Valentyna; Maraun, Mark; Scheu, Stefan
We investigated how altitude affects the decomposition of leaf and root litter in the Andean tropical montane rainforest of southern Ecuador, that is, through changes in the litter quality between altitudes or other site-specific differences in microenvironmental conditions. Leaf litter from three abundant tree species and roots of different diameter from sites at 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000 m were placed in litterbags and incubated for 6, 12, 24, 36, and 48 months. Environmental conditions at the three altitudes and the sampling time were the main factors driving litter decomposition, while origin, and therefore quality of the litter, was of minor importance. At 2,000 and 3,000 m decomposition of litter declined for 12 months reaching a limit value of ~50% of initial and not decomposing further for about 24 months. After 36 months, decomposition commenced at low rates resulting in an average of 37.9% and 44.4% of initial remaining after 48 months. In contrast, at 1,000 m decomposition continued for 48 months until only 10.9% of the initial litter mass remained. Changes in decomposition rates were paralleled by changes in microorganisms with microbial biomass decreasing after 24 months at 2,000 and 3,000 m, while varying little at 1,000 m. The results show that, irrespective of litter origin (1,000, 2,000, 3,000 m) and type (leaves, roots), unfavorable microenvironmental conditions at high altitudes inhibit decomposition processes resulting in the sequestration of carbon in thick organic layers.
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Ecology and Evolution 



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