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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 1;102(5):1519-24. Epub 2005 Jan 25.

Soil animals alter plant litter diversity effects on decomposition.

Author information

  • 1Institute of Botany, University of Basel, Schönbeinstrasse 6, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland. stephan.hattenschwiler@cefe.cnrs.fr

Abstract

Most of the terrestrial net primary production enters the decomposer system as dead organic matter, and the subsequent recycling of C and nutrients are key processes for the functioning of ecosystems and the delivery of ecosystem goods and services. Although climatic and substrate quality controls are reasonably well understood, the functional role of biodiversity for biogeochemical cycles remains elusive. Here we ask how altering litter species diversity affects species-specific decomposition rates and whether large litter-feeding soil animals control the litter diversity-function relationship in a temperate forest ecosystem. We found that decomposition of a given litter species changed greatly in the presence of litters from other cooccurring species despite unaltered climatic conditions and litter chemistry. Most importantly, soil fauna determined the magnitude and direction of litter diversity effects. Our data show that litter species richness and soil fauna interactively determine rates of decomposition in a temperate forest, suggesting a combination of bottom-up and top-down controls of litter diversity effects on ecosystem C and nutrient cycling. These results provide evidence that, in ecosystems supporting a well developed soil macrofauna community, animal activity plays a fundamental role for altered decomposition in response to changing litter diversity, which in turn has important implications for biogeochemical cycles and the long-term functioning of ecosystems with ongoing biodiversity loss.

PMID:
15671172
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC547817
Free PMC Article
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