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Nature. 2014 May 8;509(7499):218-21. doi: 10.1038/nature13247.

Consequences of biodiversity loss for litter decomposition across biomes.

Author information

1
1] Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, France [2] Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada.
2
Department of Ecological Science, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3
Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands.
4
1] Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland [2] Institute of Integrative Biology (IBZ), ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.
5
Georg August University Göttingen, J.F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Berliner Strasse 28, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.
6
1] Université de Toulouse, INP, UPS, EcoLab (Laboratoire Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement), 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex, France [2] CNRS, EcoLab, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex, France.
7
1] Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland [2] Institute of Integrative Biology (IBZ), ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland [3] Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Alte Fischerhütte 2, 16775 Stechlin, Germany [4] Department of Ecology, Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin), Ernst-Reuter-Platz 1, 10587 Berlin, Germany.
8
1] Department of Ecological Science, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands [2] Climate Change Programme, Finnish Environment Institute, PO Box 140, 00251 Helsinki, Finland.
9
1] Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, 90187 Umeå, Sweden [2] Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 7050, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden.
10
Deceased.
11
Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
12
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies & Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland.
13
Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, France.

Abstract

The decomposition of dead organic matter is a major determinant of carbon and nutrient cycling in ecosystems, and of carbon fluxes between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Decomposition is driven by a vast diversity of organisms that are structured in complex food webs. Identifying the mechanisms underlying the effects of biodiversity on decomposition is critical given the rapid loss of species worldwide and the effects of this loss on human well-being. Yet despite comprehensive syntheses of studies on how biodiversity affects litter decomposition, key questions remain, including when, where and how biodiversity has a role and whether general patterns and mechanisms occur across ecosystems and different functional types of organism. Here, in field experiments across five terrestrial and aquatic locations, ranging from the subarctic to the tropics, we show that reducing the functional diversity of decomposer organisms and plant litter types slowed the cycling of litter carbon and nitrogen. Moreover, we found evidence of nitrogen transfer from the litter of nitrogen-fixing plants to that of rapidly decomposing plants, but not between other plant functional types, highlighting that specific interactions in litter mixtures control carbon and nitrogen cycling during decomposition. The emergence of this general mechanism and the coherence of patterns across contrasting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems suggest that biodiversity loss has consistent consequences for litter decomposition and the cycling of major elements on broad spatial scales.

Comment in

PMID:
24805346
DOI:
10.1038/nature13247
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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