Jul 17, 2008

Plant species traits are the predominant control on litter decomposition rates within biomes worldwide

Ecology Letters
William K CornwellMark Westoby

Abstract

Worldwide decomposition rates depend both on climate and the legacy of plant functional traits as litter quality. To quantify the degree to which functional differentiation among species affects their litter decomposition rates, we brought together leaf trait and litter mass loss data for 818 species from 66 decomposition experiments on six continents. We show that: (i) the magnitude of species-driven differences is much larger than previously thought and greater than climate-driven variation; (ii) the decomposability of a species' litter is consistently correlated with that species' ecological strategy within different ecosystems globally, representing a new connection between whole plant carbon strategy and biogeochemical cycling. This connection between plant strategies and decomposability is crucial for both understanding vegetation-soil feedbacks, and for improving forecasts of the global carbon cycle.

  • References10
  • Citations260

References

Mentioned in this Paper

Vitreous Carbon
Phylogeny
Functional Differentiation
Climate
Plant Development
Bioremediation
Biodiversity
Plant Leaves
Biomass
EAF2 gene

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