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Decomposition Patterns of Surface Leaf Litter of Six Plant Species Along a Chihuahuan Desert Watershed

Jorge G. Cepeda-Pizarro and Walter G. Whitford
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 123, No. 2 (Apr., 1990), pp. 319-330
DOI: 10.2307/2426560
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2426560
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Decomposition Patterns of Surface Leaf Litter of Six Plant Species Along a Chihuahuan Desert Watershed
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Abstract

Mass losses from litter bags of surface creosote bush litter placed along a Chihuahuan Desert watershed were measured to answer the following questions: (1) Do edaphic factors affect organic matter losses? (2) Are there differences in mass losses between the litter of the site-dominant plant species and creosote bush leaf litter? We hypothesized that (1) mass losses of all litter types would be higher at the base of the watershed and lower on the upper portions of the watershed and (2) mass losses of the litter of the site-dominant plants would be higher than those of creosote bush leaf litter in the same site. Mass losses from creosote bush leaf litter did not follow the moisture-organic matter gradient present in the watershed. Mass losses were higher at mid-slope run-on areas than in upper-slope erosional sites and the dry lake basin. Mass losses were highest where subterranean termite activity was the highest. There were differences between losses from the litter of the site-dominant and creosote bush leaf litter in some instances, but these differences were not attributable to differences in lignin content nor C:N ratio. Mass losses of litter of site-dominant species were not always higher than that of creosote bush leaf litter in the same site. Mass losses were best described by the double exponential model.

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