Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Do soil organisms affect aboveground litter decomposition in the semiarid Patagonian steppe, Argentina?

Patricia I. Araujo, Laura Yahdjian and Amy T. Austin
Oecologia
Vol. 168, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 221-230
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41413449
Page Count: 10
  • Download ($43.95)
  • Cite this Item
Do soil organisms affect aboveground litter decomposition in the semiarid Patagonian steppe, Argentina?
Preview not available

Abstract

Surface litter decomposition in arid and semiarid ecosystems is often faster than predicted by climatic parameters such as annual precipitation or evapotranspiration, or based on standard indices of litter quality such as lignin or nitrogen concentrations. Abiotic photodegradation has been demonstrated to be an important factor controlling aboveground litter decomposition in aridland ecosystems, but soil fauna, particularly macrofauna such as termites and ants, have also been identified as key players affecting litter mass loss in warm deserts. Our objective was to quantify the importance of soil organisms on surface litter decomposition in the Patagonian steppe in the absence of photodegradative effects, to establish the relative importance of soil organisms on rates of mass loss and nitrogen release. We estimated the relative contribution of soil fauna and microbes to litter decomposition of a dominant grass using litterboxes with variable mesh sizes that excluded groups of soil fauna based on size class (10, 2, and 0.01 mm), which were placed beneath shrub canopies. We also employed chemical repellents (naphthalene and fungicide). The exclusion of macro-and mesofauna had no effect on litter mass loss over 3 years (P = 0.36), as litter decomposition was similar in all soil fauna exclusions and naphthalene-treated litter. In contrast, reduction of fungal activity significantly inhibited litter decomposition (P < 0.001). Although soil fauna have been mentioned as a key control of litter decomposition in warm deserts, biogeographic legacies and temperature limitation may constrain the importance of these organisms in temperate aridlands, particularly in the southern hemisphere.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[221]
    [221]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
222
    222
  • Thumbnail: Page 
223
    223
  • Thumbnail: Page 
224
    224
  • Thumbnail: Page 
225
    225
  • Thumbnail: Page 
226
    226
  • Thumbnail: Page 
227
    227
  • Thumbnail: Page 
228
    228
  • Thumbnail: Page 
229
    229
  • Thumbnail: Page 
230
    230