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Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions

Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions
Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions

Decomposition is a key ecosystem function, and the rate of decomposition in forests affects their carbon storage potentials. Processes and factors determining leaf litter decomposition rates in dry-land and temperate forests are well understood, but these are generally poorly studied in tropical wetland forests, especially freshwater swamp forests (FSF). The home-field advantage (HFA) hypothesis predicts that soil microbes specialize in decomposing leaf litter produced by the tree species in their immediate vicinity. However, empirical support for the HFA is equivocal, and the HFA has never been tested in the highly heterogeneous and biodiverse ecosystems of tropical FSFs. We collected leaf litter from swamp and non-swamp tree species in a tropical FSF in Singapore and monitored the decomposition rates of these in swamp and non-swamp plots for a period of eight months. Leaf litter decomposed 3.7 times more slowly in swamp plots. Leaf litter from swamp tree species were significantly poorer in quality (higher C:N ratio) than those of non-swamp FSF tree species, but this had only a weak effect on decomposition rates. There was also only weak evidence for the HFA and only in non-swamp conditions. Our results show that while the leaf litter of tropical FSF swamp and non-swamp tree species differ significantly in chemical traits, litter decomposition rate is ultimately determined by local abiotic conditions, such as hydrology. Additionally, the high FSF tree diversity may prevent decomposer communities from specializing on any group of leaf litter types and thus limit the extent of HFA observed in such heterogeneous forests.

C:N ratio, Southeast Asia, carbon sequestration, ecosystem process, home-field advantage, leaf litter quality, peat, waterlogged soil
1744-7429
920-929
Lam, Weng Ngai
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Lian, Jun Jie
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Chan, Pin Jia
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Chong, Rie
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Rahman, Nur Estya
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Tan, Lorraine Wen Ai
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Ho, Qian Yi
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Ramchunder, Sorain J.
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Peh, Kelvin S.-H.
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Cai, Yixiong
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Chong, Kwek Yan
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Lam, Weng Ngai
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Lian, Jun Jie
ff562a42-380a-497c-ba17-a9a7b87531f3
Chan, Pin Jia
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Chong, Rie
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Rahman, Nur Estya
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Tan, Lorraine Wen Ai
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Ho, Qian Yi
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Ramchunder, Sorain J.
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Peh, Kelvin S.-H.
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Cai, Yixiong
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Chong, Kwek Yan
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Lam, Weng Ngai, Lian, Jun Jie, Chan, Pin Jia, Chong, Rie, Rahman, Nur Estya, Tan, Lorraine Wen Ai, Ho, Qian Yi, Ramchunder, Sorain J., Peh, Kelvin S.-H., Cai, Yixiong and Chong, Kwek Yan (2021) Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions. Biotropica, 53 (3), 920-929. (doi:10.1111/btp.12913).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Decomposition is a key ecosystem function, and the rate of decomposition in forests affects their carbon storage potentials. Processes and factors determining leaf litter decomposition rates in dry-land and temperate forests are well understood, but these are generally poorly studied in tropical wetland forests, especially freshwater swamp forests (FSF). The home-field advantage (HFA) hypothesis predicts that soil microbes specialize in decomposing leaf litter produced by the tree species in their immediate vicinity. However, empirical support for the HFA is equivocal, and the HFA has never been tested in the highly heterogeneous and biodiverse ecosystems of tropical FSFs. We collected leaf litter from swamp and non-swamp tree species in a tropical FSF in Singapore and monitored the decomposition rates of these in swamp and non-swamp plots for a period of eight months. Leaf litter decomposed 3.7 times more slowly in swamp plots. Leaf litter from swamp tree species were significantly poorer in quality (higher C:N ratio) than those of non-swamp FSF tree species, but this had only a weak effect on decomposition rates. There was also only weak evidence for the HFA and only in non-swamp conditions. Our results show that while the leaf litter of tropical FSF swamp and non-swamp tree species differ significantly in chemical traits, litter decomposition rate is ultimately determined by local abiotic conditions, such as hydrology. Additionally, the high FSF tree diversity may prevent decomposer communities from specializing on any group of leaf litter types and thus limit the extent of HFA observed in such heterogeneous forests.

Text
Lam et al - manuscript - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 22 January 2022.
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More information

In preparation date: 24 October 2020
Accepted/In Press date: 22 November 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 January 2021
Published date: 18 May 2021
Keywords: C:N ratio, Southeast Asia, carbon sequestration, ecosystem process, home-field advantage, leaf litter quality, peat, waterlogged soil

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445820
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445820
ISSN: 1744-7429
PURE UUID: 4c7da5ff-d924-4d55-9169-4947bd871397
ORCID for Kelvin S.-H. Peh: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2921-1341

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 08 Jan 2021 17:31
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 02:59

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Contributors

Author: Weng Ngai Lam
Author: Jun Jie Lian
Author: Pin Jia Chan
Author: Rie Chong
Author: Nur Estya Rahman
Author: Lorraine Wen Ai Tan
Author: Qian Yi Ho
Author: Sorain J. Ramchunder
Author: Yixiong Cai
Author: Kwek Yan Chong

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