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Leaf Litter Decomposition and Substrate Chemistry of Early Successional Species on Landslides in Puerto Rico

Aaron B. Shiels
Biotropica
Vol. 38, No. 3 (May, 2006), pp. 348-353
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30043253
Page Count: 6
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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.
Leaf Litter Decomposition and Substrate Chemistry of Early Successional Species on Landslides in Puerto Rico
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Abstract

Decomposition is a critical process for nutrient release and accumulation of soil organic matter in disturbed soils, such as those found on landslides. I conducted a decomposition experiment on five landslides in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico as part of an investigation of the successional roles of two of the most common plant colonists to landslides, Cecropia schreberiana Miq. (Cecropiaceae) a pioneer tree species, and Cyathea arborea (L.) Sm. (Cyatheaceae) a pioneer tree fern. I compared leaf litter decomposition over one year and the initial and 1-yr chemistry for both species. Initial litter chemistry differed between the two species, as Cecropia had slightly higher nitrogen (9.2 mg/g) than Cyathea (8.2 mg/g) and higher lignin (28.6%) than Cyathea (26.0%), but water-soluble carbon and nonpolar extractable carbon (fats and oils, waxes, chlorophylls) were higher in Cyathea than Cecropia. Total carbon, acid-soluble carbon, total phosphorus, and pH did not differ significantly between leaf litter species. Across all five landslides, Cyathea (k = 0.93 ± 0.06) leaves decomposed significantly faster than Cecropia (k = 0.68 ± 0.06). The differences in these species leaf litter decomposition rates and chemical composition could potentially influence organic matter dynamics and nutrient cycling rates in these early successional systems. /// La descomposición es un proceso crítico para la liberación de nutrientes y la acumulación de materia orgánica en suelos perturbados, tales como los que se encuentran en derrumbes. Realicé un experimento de descomposición en cinco derrumbes en las Montañas de Luquillo en Puerto Rico para investigar el rol de sucesión dos plantas comunes en derrumbes, Cecropia schreberiana Miq. (Cecropiaceae) una especie de árbol pionero y Cyathea arborea (L.) Sm. (Cyatheaceae) un helecho arborescente pionero. Comparé la tasa de descomposición foliar durante un año, la química foliar incial y luego despues de un año para las dos especies mencionadas. La química foliar inicial difirió entre las dos especies, ya que Cecropia tenía el nitrógeno ligeramente más alto (9.2 mg/g) que Cyathea (8.2 mg/g) y la lignina más alta (28.6%) que Cyathea (26.0%), pero menos carbono soluble en agua y carbono no polar extraíble (grasas y aceites, ceras, clorofila). El carbono foliar total, carbono soluble en ácido, fósforo total y el pH no difirieron significativamente entre especies. A través de los cinco derrumbes, las hojas de Cyathea (k = 0.93 ± 0.06) se descompusieron significativamente más rápido que las de Cecropia (k = 0.68 ± 0.06). Las diferencias en las tasas de descomposición de estas especies y la composición química podrían potencialmente afectar la dinámica de la materia orgánica y el ciclo de los nutrientes en estos sistemas sucesionales tempranos.

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