Key message Under similar site conditions, leaf litter decomposition beneath Central African rainforests was largely driven by average leaf litter quality. Although significant, the additional variability related to litter mixing and to the decomposition environment was limited.
Context Under given site conditions, litter decomposition is expected to mainly depend on its average quality. However, the additional impacts of litter diversity as well as of the local decomposition environment remain rather inconclusive.
Aims This study investigates the litter mixture effects on decomposition and home-field advantage for two emblematic old growth forest types of the Congo Basin: the Scorodophloeus zenkeri Harms mixed forests and the evergreen Gilbertiodendron dewevrei (De Wild.) J. Léonard monodominant forests.
Methods Based on a litterbag experiment, variations in leaf litter mass loss were measured from the eight most important tree species under mixed and monodominant forests and for all possible two-species combinations.
Results Remaining mass was largely explained (90%) by a multivariate measure of initial litter quality including 11 functional traits, which performed better than any single leaf litter trait. For the litter mixtures, the average deviation from expectation based on simple additive effects ranged from slightly synergistic (+ 2.56%) to slightly antagonistic (− 0.86%) after 1 and 6 months, respectively. Mixture identity and chemical dissimilarity contributed to explaining the mixing effects, yet the effect of chemical dissimilarity at the whole mixture level was only detected through an interaction with incubation time. In addition, the initial decomposition rates of S. zenkeri and G. dewevrei were accelerated under their own forest type.
Conclusion In agreement with the “home-field advantage” theory, our results highlighted that the functional composition of the host forest did have an indirect impact on decomposition. In addition, leaf litter decomposition was mainly controlled by average litter quality, which in turn was closely related to a multivariate measure of green leaf quality. This suggests that increased knowledge of tree species leaf traits in tropical forests would greatly help in better understanding the litter decomposition dynamics.
Litter chemistry, Gilbertiodendron dewevrei, Scorodophloeus zenkeri, Litter mixture, Home-field advantage, Species identity effects
Cassart, B., Angbonga Basia, A., Jonard, M. et al. Average leaf litter quality drives the decomposition of single-species, mixed-species and transplanted leaf litters for two contrasting tropical forest types in the Congo Basin (DRC). Annals of Forest Science 77, 33 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13595-020-00942-4
For the read-only version of the full text:
Access will be provided upon reasonable request.