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Subtropical montane tree litter decomposition: Links with secondary forest types and species' shade tolerance


, : Subtropical montane tree litter decomposition: Links with secondary forest types and species' shade tolerance. Austral Ecology 28(6): 666-673, December

Litter decomposition plays an important role in secondary forest recovery in the tropics. In this study we assessed the decomposition rates of tree litter in species from different secondary forest types and with different shade tolerances. The three secondary forest types analysed are related to the effects of different previous land use intensities. The typical forest type (TYP) is related to low land use intensity, Alnus acuminata-dominated forest (ALN) type is related to medium land-use intensity and Amomyrtella guili-dominated forest type (AMO) is related to high land use intensity. The effect of shade tolerance was assessed using maximum height of each species as an indicator of its light requirements. Associations with leaf functional traits such as specific leaf area (SLA), and tensile strength (LTS) were also assessed. We found that leaves of species from the TYP forest type decompose faster than those of the ALN and AMO forest types. These changes were consistent with differences in the SLA of the species, which was higher in the TYP forest type than in the ALN and AMO forest types. SLA, LTS and decomposition were not significantly correlated with tree maximum height. Our results show that the secondary forest types, which are related to land use intensities prior to abandonment have an important influence on litter decomposition. This implies potential long-term effects on soil properties and species composition.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1046/j.1442-9993.2003.01329.x


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