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Understory plant functional groups and litter species identity are stronger drivers of litter decomposition than warming along a boreal forest post-fire successional gradient
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
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2016 (English)In: Soil Biology and Biochemistry, ISSN 0038-0717, E-ISSN 1879-3428, Vol. 98, 159-170 p.Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

Increasing surface temperatures due to climate change have the potential to alter plant litter mass loss and nutrient release during decomposition. However, a great deal of uncertainty remains concerning how ecosystem functioning may be affected by interactions between warming and other drivers, such as plant functional group composition and environmental context. In this study, we investigated how vascular plant litter decomposition and nutrient release were affected by experimental warming, moss removal and shrub removal along a post-fire boreal forest successional gradient. Our results show that litter decomposition and nutrient loss were primarily driven by understory plant functional group removal. The removal of mosses generally reduced litter mass loss and increased litter phosphorus (P) loss, while shrub removal typically increased litter mass loss and in one litter species reduced immobilization of P. Litter nitrogen (N) loss was unaffected by plant functional group removal. Warming interacted with successional stage and species identity of the litter decomposed, but these effects were uncommon and generally weak. As climate change advances, moss cover is expected to decrease, while shrub cover is expected to increase. Taken together with our results, this suggests that lower moss cover will decrease leaf litter decomposition rates and increase P release from litter, while increasing shrub cover will decrease decomposition rates and may reduce P release from litter. Our results demonstrate that in the short term, the direct effects of warming and successional stage will play a relatively minor role in driving litter decomposition processes in the boreal forest. In the long term, as the climate warms, temperature and its indirect effects via changes in the understory vegetation will play an important role in driving litter decomposition, thereby potentially altering C storage and nutrient cycling. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 98, 159-170 p.
Keyword [en]
Boreal forest post-fire succession, Carbon storage, Global climate change, Litter decomposition, Plant nctional group removal, Plant-soil interactions
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URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124136DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2016.04.009ISI: 000378008900017OAI: diva2:951107
Available from: 2016-08-05 Created: 2016-07-21 Last updated: 2016-09-22Bibliographically approved

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Dorrepaal, EllenTeuber, Laurenz M.
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